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Point/Counterpoint: If there is no NFL preseason, why bother playing any games at all?

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BTSC’s Tony Defeo and Dave Schofield debate the difference in canceling the preseason versus scrapping all of the 2020 season

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

BTSC’s Tony Defeo and Dave Schofield are going to give both sides of the following argument. First up is Tony with his thoughts on if it is safe to hold the 2020 NFL season.

In news filed under “I could see this coming,” it was reported last week the NFL will cut its preseason schedule from four games down to two. And in other high-stakes COVID-19 poker news, the NFLPA called the league’s proposal and voted unanimously to raise it to zero preseason games in 2020.

“Think that’s smart,” texted Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth Friday evening in a quote courtesy of LA Times. “I think we just prepare to pull off the season. No need to risk travel or exposure that’s not a real game.”

Yes, no need to risk travel or exposure for games that aren’t real. But the Coronavirus is always going to be real; what’s the point of exposing yourself to it even for games that count in the standings?

Honestly, the one thing I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around over the past few months of watching the country play it safe, socially distance, wear masks and #stayhome during this pandemic, is how any of that can really be done while playing sports.

I understand the need for safety. I understand players and executives from all the professional leagues have worked on and continue to work on protocols to protect players and also resume sports.

But I just don’t see how you can totally protect people when they’re out there playing sports and engaging in large gatherings in close quarters. It comes with the job.

What does it matter if you’re socially distancing yourselves in the locker room and at team meetings, when I know damn well you’re scrimmaging in the hot sun on the practice fields at training camp? You can’t tell me you want to cut down on travel, when no travel is really the only way to go if you’re truly concerned about your health and spreading the virus.

I’d like to believe players, people who will benefit from more testing than the general population, would be smart about socializing and interacting during the season and limit their chances of catching or spreading the virus. But, like the rest of the country, different players have different worldviews. And since we currently have a society full of people who keep going viral after refusing to wear masks while shopping at Buy ‘n Bag, I don’t have total confidence that hundreds of 20-something professional athletes will be wise enough to not go out a lot during the few months they’re playing whatever sport they’re being paid to play.

For the record, I’m fine with zero NFL preseason games—really, what do I care if there are no games played in August? But if you’re a football player who is concerned about preseason football, why wouldn’t you be concerned about regular season football?

I get the feeling we’re headed for a delayed start to the 2020 NFL regular season. Before you know it, the first month will be gone. Next thing you know, we’ll be reading about the owners and players negotiating for a second training camp, followed by a six-game regular season, followed by a 20-team postseason tournament.

Will any of that actually happen? I don’t know. Like I keep saying, we’ll have to keep our eye on baseball, hockey and basketball. But with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, I wouldn’t be surprised if those leagues scrap their plans to restart.

I also wouldn’t be shocked if the NFL doesn’t have a season at all in 2020.

And as much as it would suck if they scrapped sports until at least 2021, I’d be fine with it. I’ve gone without sports since mid-March. I also haven’t hugged anyone since then. I’ve been on two dates. People look at me weird if I tell them I’m hanging out at someone’s house who isn’t related to me. When I go to order take-out at just about any establishment, I feel like George Costanza in the one Seinfeld episode about the “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” guy.

I, like many other folks, have more things to worry about than just sports. This doesn’t mean I still don’t like them. This also doesn’t mean I still don’t miss them.

But it just defies logic what sports leagues are trying to do amid this pandemic.

You can either play sports or worry about your health and safety—you can’t do both.

You know what, sports? Come back, ONE YEAR!

Tony, Tony, Tony (or is it Tony! Toni! Tone!?).

First of all, you have got to be a little bit selfish every once a while. Working in the field sports journalism, it’s going to be a brutal fall if there isn’t an any football. We’ll have to do more articles like this just to make up for it.

But getting back to the question at hand, there are two main reasons why you are way off base:

1.) Amount of exposure

2.) Risk vs. Reward

To say there’s no difference in safety from the preseason to the regular season is frankly not true. The biggest issue is the amount of exposure. When two teams face-off in the preseason, there are 90 players with each team. Let’s say 10 of those players do not play at all. Add in the NFL could cut preseason rosters down to as low as 75. It’s still 60 players on the field as compared to 48 in the regular season. Also, take into account backup quarterback‘s an offensive linemen who may not see any snaps and you’re looking around 40-42 players per team in the regular season. So between the two teams, there will be at least 120 players in a preseason game versus less than 85 during the regular season. The smaller the crowd, the less the exposure.

The biggest issue for the players is the risk versus the reward when playing. Veteran players get paid about $2k for a preseason game as part of their weekly stipend for the preseason. Player contracts kick in during the regular season. Even looking at a league minimum salary for a first-year player, they get a paycheck for a game of just under $36k. The league minimum for a vested veteran? Make it about $60k per game. So to say players are okay taking the risk in order to get their paycheck when they are actually getting paid rather than a preseason game which means nothing for the standings or their salary, taking the stance of saying no preseason is not crazy. Would you go into the office during a global pandemic for a voluntary unpaid workshop we’re all you get is a $7 lunch? I wouldn’t, and I don’t really blame the players because the money works out to the same percentages.

As much as I would like to see at least a little bit of the NFL preseason for teams to be better prepared, I don’t blame the players for not wanting to take the risk with no reward. Yes, this could be extended to other issues in the future dealing with injuries, but I think it’s a little bit more of a stretch than dealing with a potentially deadly virus.

The bottom line is many players will want to play to make their money. Why would they want to play extra games in these conditions where they don’t?

So there you have it. Who made the better argument about if the 2020 NFL season should still take place if it’s not safe enough for a preseason? Make sure you vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Who made the better argument for holding the 2020 NFL season even without any preseason games?

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