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Preseason (OUCH!) needs revamping

Torn ACL. Dislocated ankle. Broken fibula. Torn MCL. Fractured hip. Pectoral tear. Torn triceps. Torn PCL. Knee strain. Torn Achilles. Torn hamstring.

Out for a week. Out for a month. Out for the season.

Out for, well, forever?

And that’s just off a cursory glance at the NFL’s injury report for this preseason.

If you listed each surgery that players already have undergone, the account would stretch longer than Alex Rodriguez’s denials.

This just in (for the 10,000th time): The NFL’s preseason needs an overhaul the size of Texas.

Good news is, it appears the league is on board with reducing the number of preseason games, in part because it agrees the quality of play and excitement often resemble that of a Monday night beer league and mostly because it has yet another plan on how to line its pockets.

Or maybe it’s just Tim Tebow throwing a ball that resembles a Monday night beer league.

Either way, here’s the thing: The league long has desired an 18-game regular-season schedule and all the additional gate and TV revenue that would arrive with it. Thinking goes, by reducing the number of preseason games, the players and their union would be more open to the idea of 18 games once things begin for real each fall.

But players don’t want it. Probably never will. Theirs is a violent, tough, dangerous game, and they’re not buying the idea that eliminating two meaningless preseason games in which many starters never play for two with greater potential for injury is close to an even swap.

Whether they ultimately will have the juice to avoid an 18-game schedule is another question.

“People want more football,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters last year. “I think they want less preseason and more regular season, and that’s the concept we are talking about here. … We wouldn’t add an extra two games without reducing the preseason, and we are not going to do it without the players’ support, so we did that in the collective bargaining agreement instead of having the unilateral right, which we had.”

None of it eliminates this: The preseason schedule should have been cut in half years ago.

Forget that fans pay full price for two glorified exhibitions to purchase eight regular-season tickets and that players receive, instead of game checks, only a per diem based on years of service for their preseason pay.

It remains one of the greatest shakedowns in sports. It’s a total fraud.

And yet more than the NFL ripping off those who support and play the game remains the fact that four preseason games is damaging the product. It’s making our country’s most popular sport less than it should be.

Bigger. Faster. Stronger. We’ve heard it for years because the idea that an NFL player begins his annual workout regimen when camp opens and spends the entire offseason lounging on a beach without a thought of sweating in a gym is foolish.

For most, it’s a 365-day journey, realizing that proving oneself the best on the field translates to a heftier bank account off it. Players report to camp now ready, willing and physically able to tear an opponent’s head off.

Or at least his knee.

This isn’t your grandfather’s NFL, in which players often viewed the season as part-time work to real jobs elsewhere. This is year-round conditioning, organized team activities, quarterback schools, minicamps, as much football in March and April as in July and August.

Players are in good enough shape now that the league could cut training camp to a month and limit preseason games to two and immediately improve the product while keeping more bodies healthy for the real stuff.

That won’t happen. Too much money would be lost for owners who have more money than God. The idea of adding playoff games also has been floated to recoup (and increase) revenue lost with fewer preseason games, but who wants to watch two sub-.500 teams in a parity-driven league play in the postseason?

Two preseason games. Sixteen regular-season games. It’s the best and smartest option. It’s the common-sense approach to keeping more players healthy and having regular-season games mean as much as they should.

I know the common-sense theory won’t float because I know NFL owners aren’t the type to walk away from guaranteed cash.

The league, one way or the other, is going to get its two additional games once the preseason schedule is reduced.

Which I suppose is good in one way: I’d rather watch Tebow in a Monday night beer league than continue to be subjected to four of these ridiculous exhibitions.

Yep, it’s that bad right now.

To think, the league used to play six preseason games.

Kill. Me. Now.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

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