RENTON — It’s been seven months since we last saw the Seahawks line up against players with different helmets than their own. Seven months since they called plays in a stadium; seven months since they last made tackles on broadcast TV.
Not since that January playoff loss to the Cowboys have the Seahawks stormed out of a tunnel to face competition from another city. But finally the preseason is here, starting Thursday night when the Seahawks face the visiting Broncos. And I’m guessing the first question on most fans’ mind is: Is it over yet?
For most regular football viewers, the NFL preseason is like high school seventh period. No one is listening to the lecture. Everyone is looking at the clock.
Unless you’re fascinated by who the future healthy scratches or practice-squad members will be, these next four weeks are essentially a countdown — a waiting game under the guise of entertainment.
But is there really anything that can be done about it? Sure, but it’s probably not going to happen.
The players, for instance, could renegotiate their next collective-bargaining agreement so as to expand to an 18-game regular season. The NFL has made such a switch before, going from 14 to 16 games in 1978.
It would be more lucrative for the players with more TV money coming in, but do you really expect them to agree to play 120 more minutes of the most brutal team sport in the world every year?
We are talking about a game in which multiple players’ seasons end every week — and where several end their careers every year. There may be some cases, such as playing on Thursdays after a Sunday, where players sacrifice their bodies for a little extra dough, but it’s doubtful they would be willing to add two more games.
Then again, the owners always could eliminate two preseason games for the sake of players and fans. As it stands, the preseason is part of every team’s season-ticket passage, meaning season-ticket holders basically have to pay for them.
It’s unlikely they really want to watch those two exhibition home games, but it’s even less likely that the owners would want to give up the revenue that comes with the preseason.
The owners are rich for a reason. They aren’t going to pass up a chance at extra cash.
There have been other ideas floated around in hopes of shortening the preseason without giving up revenue. The NFL could expand the playoffs to include more teams, but that would water down the regular season. It could add a 17th game and make every team play at least one contest internationally, but that would still increase the injury risk.
It could expand the season to 18 games and require that every player sit out twice, as was discussed last month, but that would likely create far more problems than it would solve.
Or it could keep it just how it is.
On Wednesday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was asked if he’d like to see any changes to the preseason length. He gave a very Carroll-esque response.
“I don’t feel like passing judgment on the system that is, that everybody has decided and agree up on,” Carroll said. “Not that everybody likes it, but we got four games, and every one of these games are games to block and tackle. We don’t do it out here on our practice field full speed taking them to the ground because we have the games.”
It’s true that preseason games give coaches a chance to evaluate players in a unique way. But you also get the sense that most of the decisions regarding roster personnel takes place in camp, not during exhibition games.
Just look at how dominant former Husky receiver Kasen Williams was for the Seahawks in the 2017 preseason. No matter. Seattle waived him before the season began.
Of course, there might be one other way to get the preseason shortened — and that’s fans revolting by refusing to buy season tickets. If they could make it clear that they would fork over their money only if the exhibition schedule were reduced, perhaps they’d have some sway.
But that is the least likely scenario of all. Despite the evolution of the living-room experience, about three quarters of NFL teams still have waiting lists for season-ticket holders. Football is still king and likely will be for a while.
So you can lament the prolonged preseason all you want. It’s probably not going anywhere for a while. Good news is that if you could wait seven months, you could probably handle four more weeks.