The rumors of the NFL eliminating half its preseason slate produced action Wednesday afternoon. The league is planning to slash its preseason slate, according to Pro Football Talk (on Twitter).
This comes shortly after the league nixed the Hall of Fame Game. Now, teams’ August schedules will be trimmed from four games to two. This will open the door for the long-rumored acclimation period — which will allow for increased conditioning after the virtual offseason. This process will stand to help prevent some injuries players could sustain after spending the offseason working out on their own.
Weeks 1 and 4 will be cut, according to PFT (via Twitter). Every team’s two-game slate will feature one home game and one away tilt, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweets. Instead of locking in every team’s Week 2 and Week 3 preseason opponents, the league is in favor of keeping short-travel games on the docket, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano tweets. The new schedule is expected to be released later this week.
Teams’ preseason openers will be played between Aug. 20-24, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com reports. This will give teams an extra week to prepare players amid the pandemic. This year’s preseason was scheduled to begin a bit later than usual, with the original schedule wrapping up Sept. 3. But instead of eliminating Weeks 1-2 from the preseason slate, the NFL will trim that Sept. 3 game. This will give teams more time in between the preseason and regular season.
Although the preseason has continued to mean less and less, with some teams opting to rest starters throughout, Wednesday’s decision will mean limited game action for rookies hoping to make impressions. The virtual offseason prevented young players from key onsite work, and a truncated preseason will reduce the opportunities they’ll have to stand out on film for other teams considering waiver claims. No joint practices will cut down on those chances as well.
Today’s news could well mean the end of the four-game preseason. The new CBA gives the NFL the option of transitioning to the 17-game regular-season schedule as soon as 2021. Considering the revenue that is at risk of being lost because of what could be a fanless season, it would not surprise if the league moved to 17 games as soon as possible. That format calls for a three-game preseason.
The actual games being canceled prove less significant than the overall decision, as it’s the latest major change to the NFL’s 2020 calendar. The league has thus far canceled pre-draft visits, prevented free agent visits, barred non-injured players from team facilities, made its draft a virtual event, did the same with its offseason program, canceled the Hall of Fame Game and did the same to the supplemental draft minutes ago. Nothing concrete has emerged regarding the regular season — beyond the elimination of the five international games — but the league has built in some contingencies in case the virus forces that to be altered.
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