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The View From Pluto: Why It's Time to Shorten Or Drop the NFL Preseason

Browns third string quarterback Garrett Gilbert got lots of playing time during the first two preseason games
Browns third string quarterback Garrett Gilbert got lots of playing time during the first two preseason games

There’s a growing argument in the pro sports world to eliminate the NFL preseason. Teams play four games during the month of August, mostly using backups and soon-to-be-cut journeymen. WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says the NFL preseason is big dollars for very little entertainment.  

 A tariff

Terry Pluto calls the NFL preseason an "abomination." And it’s not just because teams rest all their star players and run simple, sloppy plays aimed at preventing injuries. It's because season ticket holders are forced to buy tickets to these bad games. 

"You are paying full price for 10 games and only eight are regular season. Two are preseason. It's part of the package. They don't particularly cut the price of parking or concessions. Most season ticket holders call it a tariff. And you can try to sell them on the secondary market, but you're not going to get much for them."

Stars on the sideline

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield played for just about two minutes in the first preseason game. He ran one series for a touchdown. Running back Nick Chubb also appeared for just a few plays. New star wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. didn’t even put on his helmet. None of them played at all in the second game and won’t play in the fourth. They will get some playing time in game 3 this week, referred to as the "dress rehearsal."

"They'll probably play Mayfield through the first half," Pluto said. "But they'll be running plays to make sure he doesn't get hurt. He's going to be dropping back to pass real quick or in the shotgun."

Talk of shortening or dropping the preseason

There’s a real conversation about reshaping the preseason, as talks for a new collective bargaining agreement are underway ahead of 2021. Both sides are open to expanding the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams, which would counter the elimination of a preseason gameper an NFL Network report

Terry Pluto favors shortening the preseason to two games, but he says owners will never go for it because it would mean losing out on the ticket and TV network dollars. Pluto says owners would only favor shortening the preseason if they could add those two games to the regular season --- a move the players would never go for because of the extra wear and tear. 

"If you're charging $10 bucks and let people sit where they want, then you could have all the hardcore fans or people who normally don't go to the games during the regular season," Pluto said. "It's a rip-off; it's appalling and the NFL gets away with it. The TV networks get away with it. They know the fans are not going to rebel."

And Pluto makes the argument that college football, considered to be closely aligned with the pros, doesn't have a preseason. "If they don't need all these preseason games, the NFL doesn't either."

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio’s sports scene.