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John Harbaugh wants changes to preseason schedule

John Harbaugh is not a fan of preseason football.

After watching veteran tight end Benjamin Watson tear his Achilles and rookie running back Kenneth Dixon exit with an injury in a meaningless game, the Baltimore Ravens' coach lamented the length of the preseason.

"I know the league and the Players Association is working very hard and trying to figure out ideas to work out the preseason," Harbaugh said Saturday night, via the Baltimore Sun. "These are big, fast, strong men running around out there. It's not 25 years ago. ... It's not the 70s anymore. These guys playing in these games - it's tough - and they're not meaningful games. They are important to get better, and they improve us. But we football coaches can find ways to get our guys ready and get our players evaluated without the kind of risk that a game necessarily entails."

Coaches have been exceedingly careful with key players this season, keeping many on the sidelines for all but a handful of series.

Harbaugh insisted he wasn't reacting to the injuries of Dixon and Watson, or even to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo breaking his back this weekend. Harbaugh believes it's been evident for years that an adjustment needs to be made.

"I'm really hopeful that the union and the league can get together and do something that's good for everybody, especially what's good for the players and for the fans," he said. "Maybe it's more games that are meaningful. Bigger rosters are something I think would really help. If you go more games, fewer preseason games, and bigger rosters, that's good for everybody. To me, that's something that they can put their heads together and work out. It would be a positive."

Let's not start the 18-game schedule banter again.

The bigger rosters argument that has been made by coaches could help keep players fresher, create more jobs and competition. Yet it wouldn't eliminate non-contact injuries, like the one that wiped out Watson's season.

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs didn't disagree with Harbaugh's assessment of the preseason but admitted players need the practice before the regular season starts.

"Anytime you line up on a football field and risk getting hurt, it's out there," Suggs said. "Truth be told, we need some of these games, just maybe not four; maybe three, maybe two. But we do need some of them. But other than that, people getting hurt, it's very unfortunate. But we know it's part of the game."

When asked how many preseason games he'd like to see, Harbaugh replied: zero.

"If I had my choice, I'd go none," he said. "That might be an extreme point, but we could run scrimmages, or we could run practices against other teams and figure it out. We'd all be in the same boat. That's for people higher up than me to decide."

There is a careful balance that needs to be struck between getting players ready for the regular season and minimizing risks. Yet football as a sport is an inherent risk every time a player steps onto a field, whether for a practice, scrimmage, game or even merely individual drills.

Perhaps four preseason games aren't necessary to get ready and another reduction is in order -- in the 1970s the preseason was cut from six games to four. It is interesting to note that coaches lament practice restrictions engineered by the CBA, yet don't utilize or want the prep time preseason games provide.

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