Remember a week ago when, after watching some pretty decent Week 1 football, many of us exhaled and said, "Maybe we don't need preseason after all?"
Well, after the carnage of Week 2, maybe we do.
That's what I took away from watching star player after star player being taken off the field Sunday afternoon. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (high ankle sprain), 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (knee), Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (shoulder) and Giants running back Saquon Barkley (knee) all didn't make it to the second half of their respective games Sunday.
Sometimes we're drawn to injury overreaction. It seems like each training camp there are more ACL tears. So during the first quarter Sunday I was quiet --- until I couldn't ignore it anymore.
Two quarterbacks, including the NFC champion, went out. Two legitimate NFL stars, including a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, had knee injuries that will surely keep them out weeks, if not the entire season. In the case of Bosa, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said he most likely tore his ACL and thus will be out for the season.
That quartet was joined in football's infirmary by Colts WR Parris Campbell (knee), Colts S Malik Hooker (Achilles), Rams RB Cam Akers (ribs), Jets WR Breshad Perriman (ankle), Dolphins CB Byron Jones (groin), Giants WR Sterling Shepard (toe) and 49ers DL Solomon Thomas (knee). And that was after 49ers TE George Kittle (knee) and Saints WR Michael Thomas (ankle) had already been ruled out for Week 2, and Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (ankle) got ruled out late in his team's loss to Tampa Bay.
Four exhibitions wouldn't have prevented all of these injuries, of course. On one hand, if these injuries had to happen, at least they occurred in games that matter instead of otherwise meaningless exhibitions. On the other, maybe the preseason reps would have better prepared the body for type of hits regularly sustained in football games.
I texted Sunday afternoon with Kyle Long, the former All-Pro Bears offensive lineman and my co-panelist on CBS Sports Network's "That Other Pregame Show." I asked him if he thought preseason games would help strengthen and prepare the body better to absorb these hits.
"I think a full offseason program and a preseason may help," Long says. "But a shortened preseason, where guys aren't thrust into 70 snaps of full-go and then again the next week."
To be sure, neither one of us is a doctor. I don't know if 35 snaps and eight carries over three preseason games would have saved Barkley's knee, or if taking a couple sacks in August would have prevented whatever happened to Garoppolo's ankle.
But this is the usefulness of preseason. Maybe we got away with Week 1 going swimmingly only to be hit in the face with injuries Week 2, asking guys to play 150 snaps within seven days after playing no live reps for more than eight months.
I think it's been known that the NFL needs a full offseason period. And a reduction in preseason is likely to come now that 1. the league has expanded the playoffs by one team per conference, and 2. the schedule will soon go from 16 to 17 games. But anyone interested in a higher salary cap (and that includes team owners, personnel chiefs and players alike) need the easy revenue generated by preseason games, and that represents millions of reasons why the league won't just scrap the preseason just because you think it's not needed.
What will be interesting is, at the end of this season, taking a look at the injury data from September and comparing it the final three quarters of the season after players have "warmed up." For now, though, we have myriad unfortunate injuries to star players that maybe we should have all been expecting.
Injury muddies Barkley's financial future
With anything resembling a 1,000-yard rushing season, Giants running back Saquon Barkley was primed to cash in next offseason. His right knee injury Sunday obviously has put that in jeopardy.
Like Ezekiel Elliott, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara before him, Barkley was in great position to get his contract extension before the 2021 season that would pay him at least $15 million per year. But last year he dealt with a high ankle sprain early in the season and never returned to form despite breaking the 1,000-yard mark in Week 17.
Franchise running backs entering this fourth year get paid in today's NFL. But it's still a "what have you done for me lately" league. The Giants will, without question, remain loyal to Barkley and pick up his fifth-year option in the offseason. But it makes no financial sense to lock him into a five-year deal at top-of-the-market pricing following this injury.
Another Falcons collapse
The Falcons' kickoff return team simply did not know the onside kickoff rules. It's embarrassing, really.
It looked like the Falcons were waiting on the ball to go 10 yards when they could have easily fallen on the ball and won the game. The margin for error is razor-thin in this league, and after a roller coaster season last year, Atlanta can't afford to lose games after leading by 15 points in the second half.