If you were already getting excited to see the Seattle Seahawks take the field for the first time in a game setting in the 2020 season on Aug. 13 against the Las Vegas Raiders, you may need to hold off.
According to a report from Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network on Wednesday morning, the NFL and the NFL Players Association are considering shortening the preseason from four games to two.
Pelissero reported that while there are ongoing discussions about a variety of topics between the league and the Players Association related to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is “most likely’’ that there will be just two preseason games.
It’s unclear if that means simply lopping off the first two preseason games for each team or rescheduling the preseason.
As a refresher on the Seahawks’ preseason schedule: After hosting the Raiders on Aug. 13 to open the preseason, they are scheduled to play at Houston on Aug. 22, host the Los Angeles Chargers on Aug. 27 and end the preseason at Minnesota on Sept. 3.
Pelissero also said any shortening of the preseason would not impact the regular season. The NFL remains optimistic of playing a full 16-game regular season, beginning Sept. 10.
Instead, the league is considering shortening the preseason for two reasons:
1, To allow for teams to have more “ramp-up’’ time to get ready for games after having not been able to take the field during the offseason program.
In a typical year, teams would have had up to 13 on-field practices in May and June that this year have been scrapped because of the pandemic. Teams conducted meetings virtually.
According to Pelissero, the first week or two of training camps would potentially look similar to the offseason training program to allow players to ease back into playing shape and hopefully avoid injuries. He noted that in 2011, when there was no offseason program due to a lockout, there were more soft-tissue injuries than in normal seasons.
2, To allow for more time for the league to prepare gameday protocols necessary because of the pandemic.
There remains a lot of unknowns about how the NFL season will unfold. Will games be played with stands at full capacity? Half? Zero?
Starting training camp on time is necessary if the league wants to conduct a full regular season. But the preseason games are not, and giving everyone a few more weeks to sort things out in terms of how games will look may make sense.
As the NFL Network also reported, the league has broached the idea of starting training camp earlier to make up for some of the time lost in the offseason program, which might have allowed for playing all four preseason games.
But the NFLPA is apparently resistant to that idea and wants players to have the regularly scheduled summer break.
Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was approved last March, all teams must report to camp on July 28 (or, 47 or 48 days before the first regular season games). The two teams playing in the first Thursday Night game (the Chiefs and Texans) will report on July 25.
The old rule specified that teams would begin training camp 15 days before their first preseason game.
For this year, that change doesn’t impact the Seahawks since they would have been on track to hold their first training camp practice on July 29 under the old rules.
One additional hurdle that will have to be cleared before canceling any preseason games is the revenue that teams would lose.
Teams include preseason games in season-ticket packages at full price, and generally charge full-price for single-seat tickets. Lost ticket revenue might be less of an issue depending on what the league has decided about fans at games. Obviously if no fans are allowed then they wouldn’t be losing as much revenue from not having the additional preseason game.
There is also revenue from local and national radio and TV broadcasts of games, contests that still garner significant attention from fans. Last year’s Hall of Game game drew a higher TV rating than half of the MLB league championship series games in 2018.
But, there has been talk for a while now of potentially reducing the preseason with teams such as the Rams increasingly playing their starters little — if at all — because of the risk of injury.
The NFL may get an experiment this year in how a shortened preseason would look.
How would that impact the Seahawks?
One thing worth remembering is that if even if two games are cut, the amount of practice/meeting time would be the same.
And one could maybe argue that it would increase as not preparing for — and traveling to — as many preseason games might mean a better ability to prepare for the season. Teams often have to taper down for a day or two before a preseason game and then take a few days off afterward.
One worry about the Seahawks is the remade offensive line, which will likely feature at least three new starters. They would obviously want to use at least one of the preseason games — however many there are — to get some significant reps for its starting offensive line.