The Ravens and 49ers are wrapped up their joint practice yesterday following their meeting in Thursday night’s preseason opener. For the Ravens, it the first time they have held joint practices, unless you count the occasional scrimmage they used to hold years ago with the Redskins just down road. More and more teams are lining these up as 13 teams have a joint practice scheduled, and three (Patriots, Falcons, Texans) have two joint practices scheduled.
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During their practice with San Francisco, the Ravens suffered some significant injuries. Most significant being DE Kapron Lewis-Moore ruled out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. He’s the second defensive lineman to be ruled out for the season (Brent Urban, ACL). Asa Jackson needed to be helped off the field with an ankle injury, and his status for Saturday’s game in Dallas is in question. The injury is said to be “minor” by Coach John Harbaugh. Dennis Pitta was also held out of Sunday’s practice as a precautionary measure with an ankle “tweak”.
Injuries like this raise the question, are these joint practices to blame? The short answer is no .
Injuries happen any time. Brent Urban’s injury wasn’t during a joint practice. Dennis Pitta’s broken hip a year ago wasn’t during a joint practice. You can step wrong and break an ankle from walking the dog. Despite the extra adrenaline a player might get by getting to try to beat an opponent rather than a teammate in drills, the two teams only did full contact, tackle to the ground on goal line drills. Those drills didn’t involve the first teamers either.
If these practices put players in more danger than any other practice situation, then why is there an increase in teams agreeing to participate in them? This is a day in age where player safety is paramount to everything thing else (Well, almo$t everything el$e).Furthermore, why would one of the most respected head coaches, Bill Belichick, with one of the most valuable players in the game, Tom Brady, sign up for not one, but two joint practices?
Here’s what Terrell Suggs had to say about the practices:
“I like it. I think it actually speeds up the process. You get four games to get ready for the opener, and a lot of those games you don’t play that much, probably but one game. But I think it’s good. I think it’s really good. And, like I said before, to go up against a team of the caliber of the 49ers with their success and the guys they’ve got, it kind of speeds up our process to get ready for our opener.”
From David Steele of the Sporting News, here’s what Bill Belichick had to say:
“We may get a handful of red-area plays in the preseason games. Don’t know, we might not. But we know we’re going to get probably over 25 today. Same thing on third down—I don’t know how many third downs some of our guys who are going to have a lot of playing time during the year are going to get in preseason, but by the end of the week we’ll probably have 30 third down situations here. “
“You just can’t get the reps in preseason games like you can get out here on the practice fields.’’
It speeds up the process to get ready for the opener. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Performing your absolute best when it matters?
Now you have Bill Belichick, who aside from being one of the great head coaches, is also one of the most influential when it comes to rules and the direction of the league, saying that joint practices are better than preseason games. Combine that with the notion that the league wants to one day move to an 18 game schedule, trash two of the four current preseason games, is Belichick the nudge that will get the ball rolling in that direction? Substitute two joint practice sessions for two games?
Of course the major issue in all of this is money. Are owners willing to give up the gate and concession sales for a preseason game? It’s essentially 10% of their game day earnings for the season.
The Ravens are working out a deal to return the favor to San Francisco, and head out to the Bay Area in the summer or 2015.