NFL exhibition games put players at meaningless risks

Former OU lineman Davin Joseph suffered a torn patellar tendon in an Aug. 24 exhibition game. Now, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are without one of their top players for the season.
by Berry Tramel Published: September 2, 2012
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photo - Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive linemen Derek Hardman, left, and Davin Joseph participate in a blocking drill during a workout at NFL football training camp, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) ORG XMIT: FLMC109
Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive linemen Derek Hardman, left, and Davin Joseph participate in a blocking drill during a workout at NFL football training camp, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) ORG XMIT: FLMC109

Davin Joseph won't play Sunday when his Tampa Bay Buccaneers open their 2012 season against the Carolinas. In fact, the gregarious guard on Bob Stoops' 2002-05 Sooner teams won't play at all this season.

Joseph suffered a torn patellar tendon in an Aug. 24 exhibition game and underwent knee surgery.

Joseph was sacrificed in the name of money and outdated tradition.

The NFL season kicks off Wednesday night with Cowboys-Giants, and it can't get here soon enough. Not just because pro football is the greatest show on turf or surf, but because it means no more exhibitions.

NFL football is America's greatest sport. NFL exhibitions are America's worst. And unlike baseball spring training or even NBA preseason games, NFL exhibitions aren't harmless. They are dangerous and should be eliminated.

Not reduced. Eliminated. Exhibition football is a flawed concept.

The gridiron is a brutal stage. Injuries are going to happen. Better equipment, enlightened rules and advanced training methods all make the game safer. But you can't make it safe.

So why is the NFL putting its players at risk for no good reason? Why is the NFL playing games that don't matter? Games that neither fans nor veteran players care about? Games that matter to rookies and newcomers only because it's a chance to prove themselves to coaches, a chance that sans exhibitions would move to practice, where there is much more control over the conditions?

Every year, some NFL players lose at least a year off their already-short careers with exhibition-game injuries. Among the victims in 2012: Arizona offensive tackle Levi Brown, Chicago safety Brandon Hardin, Cincinnati guard Travelle Wharton, Houston linebacker Darryl Sharpton and New Orleans linebacker Chris Chamberlain, the pride of Bethany. Then I stopped looking, because I was getting depressed.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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