Ross Tucker
Thursday August 21st, 2008

With no football to play for the first time in 18 years, former pro Ross Tucker is passing the time reading about his favorite sport. What follows are a few links to NFL-related articles he found and his take on them.

Fans distaste for preseason football seemingly grows with every passing year. They dislike having to pay regular season prices for tickets, parking and concessions to watch an inferior product. Who can blame them.

But fans should take heart, change may be coming. NFL owners appear poised to push for extending the regular season to 17 or 18 games, thus decreasing the preseason to two or three games. Commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Bob Kraft, among others, have been speaking publicly about it, and as one would expect, there are a number of details that need to be taken into consideration.

For starters, the players are bound to complain that they would, in effect, be playing extra games without receiving any extra pay. But that thought process is somewhat misguided.

As it stands now, players receive, via the salary floor, a guaranteed percentage of the total revenue franchises earn. If there are more regular season games and that revenue is greatly enhanced, the salary floor will reflect that. The players would reap the financial benefits, even if their checks, which are currently distributed evenly over 17 weeks, were spread over an additional week or two.

The players likely would be trading a week or two of preseason and training camp for an extra regular season game or two, a trade many of them would gladly make. There are concerns, to be sure, about player health and safety given the inevitable increase in injuries and wear and tear on their bodies. The owners would have to be prepared to mitigate some of that risk by addressing the player's long held concerns about post-football health insurance.

Beyond that, there are a plethora of scenarios that should be considered as the league takes strides to increase revenue and present a better product to the fans.

One scenario for the 17-game season involves having every team play one neutral site game on U.S. or foreign soil with an additional bye week to follow that game. The end result would be 19 weeks of regular-season television revenue for the league but only one additional game for the players.

The league could also easily shorten the time between when players report to camp and the first preseason game. This is usually the most physically and mentally demanding time of the year. But it stands to reason that if the Indianapolis Colts can play in the Hall of Fame game with less than two full weeks of practice, so can every other team. The proliferation and increased importance of OTA's and mini-camps make this extra prep time less critical.

No matter how the situation is resolved, the likelihood is there will be fewer preseason games, which is something almost every one can agree on.

The league should realize this isn't a financial well it can continually tap. It sounds good to add a regular season game or two now, but what happens five to 10 years from now when the players and the owners have labor negotiations and feel a need to increase revenue again. They can't go to this well too many times, lest the well run dry.

As if I needed any more ammunition to support my contention that training camp quarterback competitions are flawed, at best, the reluctance by so many head coaches to name a starter heading in to the third preseason game has only strengthened my convictions.

I recognize coaches feel as if they need to let the situation run its course and declare itself, but is that really happening? Has the situation in Baltimore or other cities become markedly clearer after a month of football?

Even in the situations like San Francisco, where a player like J.T. O'Sullivan has apparently emerged as the frontrunner, you have to wonder how much Mike Martz massaged the competition behind the scenes so that O' Sullivan would get the bulk of the work in the preseason games and therefore become the de facto choice as the starter as long as he played somewhat competently.

The bottom line is that if you are not sure who your starting quarterback should be after all of the OTA's, minicamps and preseason workouts up to this point, it likely doesn't matter.

Whoever gets the job for Week 1 will likely just be keeping it warm until they inevitably falter during the regular season and give way to the guy they ostensibly beat out just a few weeks prior.

While not nearly as sexy to talk about as quarterback competitions, there are a number of teams who either are or were unsettled at the right guard position. I'm on record as saying the right guard spot is the most critical of the three interior positions along the offensive line because of the propensity of most teams to slide their center to the left, or back side of the protection. This puts the right guard on an island, often against the best interior rusher for the opposing team.

Veteran Keydrick Vincent had an excellent camp and won the battle for the Carolina Panthers. The Cardinals Deuce Lutui appears to be in danger of losing what was once thought to be his job by having a number of "unacceptable" plays, in the words of coach Ken Whisenhunt, so far this preseason.

But the most long overdue decision finally took place in St. Louis where Richie Incognito was removed from the center competition with Brett Romberg and returned to his old spot as the starting right guard, a position he should have been kept at the entire time.

It is critical that you put your most physically gifted interior player, which Incognito is for the Rams, at the right guard position in order to have him handle the increase in one on ones in obvious passing downs that comes with the position.

According to a couple Rams sources, Incognito's strength is his physical ability, not the mental aspect of the game that is so critical at the center position. Centers are typically very cerebral in nature. Incognito is more of a bull in a china shop.

I am not sure why it took so long for the Rams to figure this one out, but at least they got it right with a couple of weeks to go before the season opens.

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