By Jason Keidel
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There shouldn’t be agony in August.
Not in the NFL, anyway. You shouldn’t have to wince while your star player is doubled over in agony, and wonder whether you’ve lost your season before Labor Day.
Yet there was Odell Beckham Jr. on his knees, as though praying — surely Giants fans were — after a blow to his ankle during Monday night’s game against the Browns. It took Beckahm way too long to get back to the locker room, an assistant’s arm lapped around OBJ’s waist while he limped into darkness.
The Giants’ star wideout said later he will be fine, though was coy about the reasons for his confidence. But this is becoming a familiar, yet wholly avoidable montage among pro football players, who merely want to escape training camp with their limbs and ligaments intact.
If that weren’t enough, the receiver the Giants signed to take pressure — and coverages — away from Beckham, Brandon Marshall, was also hurt Monday night. Like Beckham, Marshall said his shoulder should be fine for the regular season.
Imagine the Giants entering 2017 sans their two best skill players?
Neither the Giants nor you should have to worry about this, watching Big Blue with one eye open, or spend your final summer nights cringing every time your favorite player catches a football. With all the mushrooming medical knowledge at our disposal, there are endless arguments for a truncated, if not extinguished, NFL preseason.
While team brass and league PR minions recycle the same nonsense — that they need these games for players to get in shape and in sync with their teammates — we know the truth behind the layers of corporate subterfuge. The owners guzzle the revenue stream from every game they sell, be it from television rights, ticket sales, or vendor receipts.
A good friend of mine was a Jets season ticket holder the last few seasons. If that weren’t, on its own, an admirable act of courage and sacrifice, he’s not allowed to just pay for the eight home games. No, sir. It’s not enough that he endure the gridiron horrors of a Jets game, or that he sit in the soup of November weather. He must also pay for two preseason games, which we all know no one (except ownership) cares about.
He paid a little under $4,000 for three seats for 10 total games. Not that exorbitant by NFL standards, but these are the Jets, who always live among the margins of pro football. Still, four grand is serious coin for expendable income, especially when most Americans admit they could not pay an emergency $1,000 expense if they had to.
Now recently married, with a newborn in the house, my friend’s money is funneled toward more serious needs. So he canceled his season package. The Jets didn’t appreciate the phone call. So they came back, in earnest, with counteroffers — different seat placement, a la carte game selection, etc. Even after being told he wasn’t interested, they persisted.
Let’s assume the Giants charge, say, $6,000 for the same package. Do you really slide those chips toward the middle to see Beckham snap his ankle on Aug. 21? In Cleveland, no less?
There’s been ample media buzz over Le’Veon Bell not reporting to Steelers camp. He’s under no obligation to report until he signs his $12.1 million franchise tender. And though head coach Mike Tomlin has made some disapproving remarks, do you really think he and the Rooney family are really heartbroken that Bell, perhaps the best running back in football, who has a troubling history of injuries, will play his first game when it counts?
It’s already understood that a club’s best players don’t see real action until at leas the third out of the four preseason games. So what’s the point? With all we now know about head trauma and the sprawling list of players who get hurt before September, the NFL should take a giant eraser to the preseason. Or at least cut the games in half.
This way we don’t have to see star players like Beckham in a prayer position, and he can begin his season where he belongs on the Giants’ offense — the pole position.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel