Sunday, August 24, 2008


It’s understandable that when you are about to reunite with something most dear that separation anxiety can get the best of you. It could be anything such as a long-lost flame, a childhood friend, those Karl Kani jeans from back in 1995, what-have-you. Yet, one would be foolish to expect everything to be as it was before all of that time apart from each other.

He’s engaged. Your friend went a different path in life. Only people born before 1988 know who Karl Kani is.

For the most part, you can accept the fact that nothing is as great as the nostalgia told you. Life changes, people drift away to gather themselves and over time, you’ll discover that really, really bad fashion can make an unfortunate comeback. So you let it be and can smile at the memories.

One reunion, however, will make people say and think the darndest things:

“The Jets are Super Bowl-bound, baby! Brett the Jet!”

“You know, I think Rex Grossman’s going to have a helluva year.”

“Chad Johnson might change his name.” (Oh, that’s right. He’s actually considering that… right?)

“Preseason is too long.”

The last statement is the one that jumps out more and more with each passing August. It’s the most common refrain from the masses in regards to the NFL exhibition season. A good bit of veteran players would rather not go through the physical grind and jump straight into the games that matter. Media members and most fans share the view that no one wants to see third-string players because… well, they’re third-string players. The few fans that are season-ticket holders get up in arms because they must pay full-price for these games in order to retain their rights for seats when the games count in the standings.

As said last year in this space, the preseason is never about everyone else surrounding the game, but more about determining the kind of depth that a team has going into the regular season. Case in point: as we are twelve days away from the start of the season, two teams that will find out how deep they really are will find out sooner than expected.

The bad news for the defending champion New York Giants will have sunk in by September 4th as they will go without Osi Umenyiora. The sixth-year Pro Bowl defensive end elected to have season-ending surgery on a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. Umenyiora tweaked his knee while pulling away from Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson in the second quarter of their annual preseason game on Saturday (though at first glance, did not seem as if it would be more than a sprained knee). Their guests, the Washington Redskins, will have to play without one of their defensive ends as well; the newly-acquired Jason Taylor. While Taylor will return for the team’s second contest later in the month, he is only in Washington after Phillip Daniels (an underrated end in his own right) tore his ACL during training camp.

Going without a premier player is disheartening enough because of what (s)he can bring to the table in the game. Yet, when the injury happens before the season even starts, it can be maddening and in the case of the NFL, the usual anti-preseason critics will have even more ammo in their argument to shorten the exhibitions. Yet, it is for this exact reason that coaches rarely speak out against the length of the preseason.

If an elite player misses time due to injury, more than likely, a young and inexperienced player will be thrown into the fire and have to step into that position of need. Without the preseason, that player, while likely to be overwhelmed with the higher stakes and impromptu playing time, would be the deer stuck in headlights without any practice, preparation or ‘hands-on’ experience for the real thing. In the case of Umenyiora, it’s got to be excruciating physically, mentally and emotionally to be unable to help his team defend their Super Bowl title (yet, still contend with us media if he chooses to come to the games). However, this is the time where the offseason addition of veteran end Renaldo Wynn and the return of LB/DE Mathias Kiwanuka from a broken leg last season will come into play. Giants fans are also going to learn the name Dave Tollefson, a second-year reserve end who saw time late last season in a backup role.

It is rather unfortunate that someone has to get hurt in order for another player to have a chance to show his or her skills. Every team in sports competes with the certainty that someone will miss time because of injury. It would be poor management and a lapse of common sense to not have a contingency plan built before the season starts. After all, how can a team entertain its fans without the best possible preparation?

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