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John Harbaugh Advocates For Eliminating Preseason Games


Head Coach John Harbaugh is a fan of hard work, but not of unnecessary risk.

After Saturday night's 30-9 preseason win over the Detroit Lions, Harbaugh – virtually unprompted – proposed a major reformation to the preseason.

And in reforming it, he wants to get rid of preseason games completely.

"More [regular-season] games, fewer preseason games and bigger rosters – that's good for everybody," Harbaugh said.

A reporter followed up, asking Harbaugh how many preseason games he would want.

"If I had my druthers, I'd go none," he said. "That might be an extreme point, but we can run scrimmages and we can run practices against other teams and all figure it out. We'd all be in the same boat. But that's for people higher up than me to decide."

In 1978, the NFL went from six preseason games to four. Four years ago, Commissioner Roger Goodell voiced his belief that the league should decrease the amount again and go to two preseason games.

"I don't believe the veterans need four preseason games anymore," Goodell said at the time.  "The primary purpose of a preseason for a team is to evaluate and develop players and then they select their teams."

Goodell floated out that idea as part of a larger schedule shake-up to expand the regular season to 18 games instead of 16. So far, the NFL and NFL Players Association haven't found a mutual solution.

But as players suffer major injuries in comparatively meaningless preseason games, it's becoming more and more of an issue.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is expected to miss at least half the season after suffering another back injury in a preseason game. It hit close to home Saturday night when Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson suffered a torn Achilles.

Harbaugh said his point was not in reaction to those injuries or any other ones this year. It's clear this is something he's been thinking about for a while. He expressed confidence that the league and NFLPA are working on finding a solution, but he'd like to find one fast.

"These are big, fast, strong men running around out there and it's not 25 years ago. It's not the '70s anymore," Harbaugh said. "These games, they're tough. And they're not meaningful games. They are important to get better and improve us. But we're football coaches, we can find ways to get our guys ready, to get our guys evaluated without the kind of risk that the game necessarily entails.

"I'm really hopeful that the union and the league can get together and do something that's good for everybody – that's especially good for the players and for the fans. Add more games that are meaningful."

Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, however, didn't want to eliminate preseason games altogether. Coming off Achilles surgery, Suggs wanted to play in the Ravens' third preseason game to knock the rust off and get some game reps under his belt before Week 1.

"Truth be told, we need some of these games … just maybe not four … maybe three, maybe two," Suggs said. "But we do need some of them. Other than that, people getting hurt, it's very unfortunate but we know it's part of the game."

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