During the breaks in the Packers-Raiders preseason game, I tried to research what went on that caused Coach Matt LaFleur to withhold his top 33 players from playing on the field of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
It appears that when the goal posts, which are located differently on Canadian Football League fields, were moved, the holes left were filled poorly, creating some footing concerns. Never mind that the game was played on an 80-yard field, the thing that apparently caused LaFleur to sideline all his starters, and eleven others, was concern over these two spots of turf.
I saw a photo that showed the supposed culprit: about a 20” by 20”square; I assume there were two of these, one near each end zone. Bear with me. An NFL football field is comprised of 57,600 square feet of turf. The two offending filled holes, combined, take up maybe 8 square feet. So, the supposed poor footing constituted about 0.0001388% of the playing surface – a statistically insignificant amount of space.
Before proceeding, let me relate my experience at filling holes, as I have about 100 fence posts on my property, we have very high autumn winds on Whidbey Island, and trees are constantly falling across my fences. Filling post holes is not difficult – one need not be a landscaper or soil scientist to get the job done.
These two spots were located near the ends of the playing field, so very few plays occurred anywhere near these spots. Had there been turf problems at the 50-yard line, I suppose one could argue there was some justification for concern. Raiders Coach Jon Gruden copied LaFleur, or vice versa, by also holding out most of his starters from the game.
If these coaches truly kept all their best players from playing due to these two questionable surface flaws, I can only describe those decisions as: paranoia.
I suspect, however, that the turf condition was merely a convenient excuse. LaFleur has made it abundantly clear that he’s obsessed about not exposing his players to injury risks prior to the regular season.
C’mon man, this is pro football, where games are played in mud and rain puddles, slogging through snow, and sometimes on fields as icy as a skating rink. Stop pussifying this great game. I certainly would like to see NFL injuries reduced, and I’ve done numerous posts on ways to do this. I can think of 25 ways to make this game safer, without compromising the basic physical nature of the game. The decisions made by these two coaches this evening are not among them.
Cause and Effect
Whatever the reason, the result is that Green Bay will go into the all-important game against the Chicago Bears on September 5 inadequately prepared. I assume they’ll be grossly unprepared in comparison to the opposition, as I presume Chicago’s star players will get a fair amount of playing time in their third preseason game on Saturday.
I’m also assuming that LaFleur will again choose not to play his starters in the fourth and final preseason game, against Kansas City, a week from now. Refraining from playing starters in the final preseason game is a precept all but carved in stone throughout the copycat NFL.
Longer term, I believe this game signals the eventual demise of preseason NFL games. Veteran players don’t seem to want to expose themselves to any risks. Neither do head coaches. And for sure, the players union will make this a huge negotiating point when it (soon) comes to negotiating the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Tonight was a sad night for diehard fans of the great game of football. Terrible call, Matt!
Until September 5 rolls around, I think I’ll content myself with watching Jimmy Taylor and Ray Nitschke highlight reels.