Many NFL teams use the preseason as a live talent evaluation for many of their young player fighting for a roster spot. Despite this, it is not uncommon for a team’s starters to play a drive or two to go through the motions for the regular season. However, the Minnesota Vikings took a different strategy to open up the 2021 preseason, which begs the question, “Should starters sit out the preseason?”
The Vikings saw action from almost exclusively second and third-stringers in a somewhat embarrassing 33-6 loss to the Denver Broncos. Is that a bad thing though? I mean, the preseason games hold zero value in the regular-season standings. The main point of the preseason is to round out the bottom of a roster and decide what youngsters deserve a spot on the practice squad.
Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, coming off a 1,400-yard rookie campaign recently spoke on the importance of preseason snaps. After a shoulder injury scare, it is a possibility that Jefferson does not get any reps this preseason. However, he is not losing any sleep over it.
Does it Matter if Starters Play in the Preseason?
In short, no, it does not matter. In fact, it may actually be beneficial to not play them. Avoiding injuries is a tricky science, but everyone can agree that fewer reps equal a lower chance of injury. Most will point to the narrative that all players need reps to knock off the rust.
However, in the words of the great Allen Iverson, “We talking about practice.” In fact, that is essentially what the preseason is… practice. Nobody would bat an eye if a player sat out of a practice to be ready for a game, so why is this an issue?
We are talking about some of the best athletes in the world. These men know their positions, the playbook, and what it takes to run it more than anyone. And, as Justin Jefferson pointed out, they seemed to do pretty well last year without a preseason.
Pleasing the Players
In March of 2020, the players had to vote to pass the new collective bargaining agreement. While the vote passed, 48.5% of the players voted against the CBA. That means that 959 players would opt for a shorter season, mostly to conserve their health. After all, staying on the field is the biggest key to a payday.
If they intend to increase revenue through a longer regular season, why not let their stars rest until then. If anything, the NFL should be content with their moneymakers. Fans do not watch the preseason to see their favorite superstars tearing it up, they watch because it is football.
The Hall of Fame Game was a brilliant example of that. The meaningless extra preseason game drew an audience of 7.326 million viewers. Keep in mind, this game featured a QB battle between Mason Rudolph and Garrett Gilbert. If there is football, there will be an audience.
To me, the solution is simple. Let the stars and important starters rest during the preseason. Let young players fight for the final roster spots. After all, the regular season is much more exciting with the brightest stars lighting up the stat sheet week in and week out.
There is no use for the best players in the league, who have shown an ability to play at the highest level already, to risk it all on a meaningless matchup. Maybe you will have a 33-6 blowout along the way, but the best part about the preseason is that it does not mean a thing.