When Jarvis Landry called preseason games B.S. Monday night, he might as well been speaking for half the league.
Players whose roster spots are already assured see little upside to playing in them.
The most obvious drawback, of course, is fear of injury in a meaningless game. That’s what happened to Odell Beckham Jr., Landry’s close friend. The Giants receiver sprained his ankle on a low hit, presumably prompting Landry’s profane tweet. (Landry declined comment on the subject Tuesday.)
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But that would almost be tolerable if players were compensated for putting their bodies at risk. NFL salaries are paid out in 17-week installments over the course of the season. They’re basically working for free in August. (Players do get training camp stipends, but it pales in comparison to their actual salaries.)
The Dolphins theoretically could cut Landry on Sept. 2 (they won’t) and if no one else picks him up (another absurd hypothetical), he would earn next to nothing this year — despite coming to work diligently since April. Plus, Landry is in a contract year, so a significant injury could have an adverse effect on his long-term security.
That’s the players side.
We know why the league likes preseason games: it’s additional revenue.
So where do coaches fall on this debate? If anyone should be wary of training camp and preseason injuries, it’s Adam Gase.
He’s already lost his starting quarterback, middle linebacker and left guard, plus a cornerback who was on the field for 75 percent of the Dolphins’ defensive snaps last year. Raekwon McMillan blew out his knee on a freak play in the very first preseason snap of his career.
But Gase was almost irritated Tuesday when asked about the need for four preseason games.
“Whatever they tell us to play, that’s what we’re going to do,” Gase said.
He added that there’s been “zero” internal conflict or discussions about playing his guys in the preseason.
“You’ve got to play,” Gase said. “That’s how you get better. It is what it is. If they tell us to play four games, we play four games.”
From a team perspective, players are already doing less hitting in the preseason than in generations past, and they can’t get to Week 1 of the regular season with no idea of how good of a team they have.
Gase continued: “When it comes to playing time and things like that, we kind of have our routine. Sometimes the flow of the game can change that, whether it be more or less. I know last year we were playing Dallas and we came off the field and I thought we were coming off a good drive and all those guys were like, ‘We’re not coming out. We want to go another round,’ so that’s what we did. When those guys communicate like that and they want to stay in there when we thought we were going to take them out, that was good to see from our guys. This last game, it was really the same thing. What we got was really what we were looking to get and Matt [Moore] went in and those guys stayed in another series. That was good work for us. It’s the same thing for this game. You always plan, ‘Alright, the third preseason game, we’re going to go into the half, we’re going to come back out, kind of get in that rhythm.’ It has been like that every year since I’ve been calling plays. I don’t even know how many times I’ve actually done it, because something good has happened at the end of the half or we’ve gotten enough plays. [You] just kind of have to be flexible.”
The Dolphins’ third — and most important — game of the preseason kicks off here at 7 p.m. Thursday.