Souhan: NFL shouldn't put its top players at risk for meaningless games

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 28, 2013 - 7:09 AM

Owners ignore the threat to player safety in order to satisfy their greed.

Thursday night, tens of thousands of fans will stream into the Metrodome on a summer night to watch an NFL exhibition game featuring players soon to be trying out for the Iowa Barnstormers.

That makes it the ideal preseason game. The only way to improve it would be to cancel it.

NFL games played in August always have been cruel jokes perpetrated on a complicit public. Now they’re worse. Now these games stand as criminal acts against fans and players.

For fans, these games are lumped into season-ticket plans. This is the sports-world version of extortion. You want to watch real games, buddy? Then you’re going to have to pay a little vig. That’s right, you’re going to have to buy tickets to games that don’t count contested mostly by players who won’t make the team. Tony Soprano would be offended by the NFL’s business practices.

For players, these games are worse. They’re evidence that a league pretending to care about players’ health doesn’t care at all. The rich ol’ NFL is happy to let star players risk their health and longevity in meaningless games because the NFL can sell tickets and broadcast rights to the games.

In Minnesota, the debate has revolved around the Vikings’ use of Adrian Peterson. In the end, the team decided to use him for two plays during the preseason, both designed to shield him from contact. Even those two plays generated too much risk.

On the first play, Peterson was asked to pass-block. On the second, he was sent into a decoy pattern, and the Vikings were lucky 49ers’ defensive end Justin Smith, a hulking mass of menace, didn’t body-slam Peterson for the fun of it.

Peterson accomplished nothing by being on the field. He could have been injured, destroying the Vikings’ season. That is a bad risk-reward ratio.

Here’s what players should be asking their league and union: If the best player in football can thrive without appearing in one preseason game, and then is asked to make only a nonviolent cameo in the next, what does that say about exhibition games? And what does it say about the players the NFL is willing to place at risk?

Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams is a borderline Hall of Fame player nearing the end of his career. He played in the third quarter of a meaningless exhibition Sunday and one the 49ers scrubs trying to impress his coaches took out Williams’ right knee.

As the coach, Leslie Frazier is responsible for placing Williams at risk. That’s all you need to know about the NFL’s persistently backward mind-set regarding player safety. Frazier is perhaps the best human being I’ve covered. He’s compassionate man. But NFL coaches think in terms of toughness and repetitions and continuity. They almost all err on the risk side of the risk-and-reward formula presented to them each summer.

Peterson shouldn’t have been on the field in the first quarter. Williams shouldn’t have been on the field in the third quarter. Nobody worth protecting should have been on the field at all.

The downside of preseason games is obvious. The upside is invisible.

Consider the three most remarkable athletic performances by major-sports stars in Minnesota in the past five years. In 2009, Joe Mauer won the American League MVP award. He missed spring training. In 2009, Brett Favre led the Vikings to the brink of the Super Bowl while turning in the most efficient season of a Hall of Fame career. He missed as much offseason workouts and training camp as possible. In 2012, Peterson rushed for 2,093 yards and won the NFL MVP Award. He did not play in the preseason.

This season, another athlete with Minnesota ties, Francisco Liriano, suffered an injury that kept him from pitching in spring training. He is having a career year.

We love to associate success in sports with hard work and team building, but great athletes are at their best when healthy and rested.

NFL players face the highest risks of any of our major-sport athletes. They shouldn’t be put at risk in games designed to wring a few extra dollars out of desperate fans.

Fans should boycott exhibition games. Veteran players should, too.

 

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Video: Vikings upset with hit on Williams

    Wednesday August 28, 2013

    Vikings players and coaches expressed their concern with the hit that injured Kevin Williams during Sunday's preseason game.

  • Circumstances might land backup's backup on Vikings' D-line

    Wednesday August 28, 2013

    The Vikings were loaded at the defensive line just a few weeks ago. But this is the NFL. Things change. They might change back.

  • Vikings deliver Wilf financial data to stadium authority

    Tuesday August 27, 2013

    Michele Kelm-Helgen, the authority chairwoman, said that attorneys and representatives for both sides planned to meet well into Tuesday night to review the financial data.

  • Vikings upset that Looney hit was ruled legal

    Wednesday August 28, 2013

    Jared Allen was particularly incensed about the play in which Kevin Williams suffered a hyperextended knee.

  • Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller (28) runs past Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams (93) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

  • Kevin Williams of the Minnesota Vikings NFL football team. This image reflects the Minnesota Vikings active roster as of Thursday, June 6, 2013 when this image was taken. (AP Photo) ORG XMIT: NFLHS13

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago WSox - S. Carroll 12:05 PM
NY Yankees - H. Kuroda
Tampa Bay - J. Hellickson 12:07 PM
Toronto - M. Buehrle
Detroit - B. Farmer 12:10 PM
Minnesota - Y. Pino
Seattle - C. Young 12:35 PM
Boston - B. Workman
Baltimore - B. Norris 1:20 PM
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks
San Francisco - T. Lincecum 3:05 PM
Washington - J. Zimmermann
Houston - C. McHugh 6:05 PM
Cleveland - D. Salazar
St. Louis - S. Miller 6:05 PM
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan
Atlanta - E. Santana 6:10 PM
Cincinnati - M. Leake
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez 6:10 PM
Milwaukee - W. Peralta
San Diego - A. Cashner 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Miami - T. Koehler 7:10 PM
Colorado - J. Lyles
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Minnesota - T. May
Kansas City - J. Guthrie 7:25 PM
Texas - N. Tepesch
LA Angels - C. Wilson 8:05 PM
Oakland - J. Lester
NY Mets - J. deGrom 8:10 PM
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke
Carolina 7 FINAL
New England 30
NY Giants 35 FINAL
NY Jets 24
Jacksonville 12 FINAL
Detroit 13
Oakland 21 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Chicago 6 FINAL
Seattle 34
Tampa Bay 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:00 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
UCF 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Penn State
Chicago 6:00 PM
Toronto FC
Montreal 6:00 PM
Red Bull New York
Chivas USA 6:30 PM
New England
Houston 6:30 PM
Columbus
D.C. 7:30 PM
Sporting Kansas City
Vancouver FC 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Montreal 16 FINAL
Winnipeg 24
Toronto 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 2:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Indiana 4:00 PM
Washington
Minnesota 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who would you rather have on your team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close