Pre-season games on chopping block

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

Most sports are generally unwatchable in the pre-season, but pre-season football may be the worst of all.

If you are lucky, you might see a starting offence for a quarter, but too often it's just for a series or two. The rest of the show tends to match one of those scoreless draws in the World Cup.

Interesting, then, that the often discussed issue of getting rid of two pre-season games and adding them to the end of the regular schedule is starting to pick up steam, if not a consensus.

The reaction from both the players and owners when it was raised this week was predictable.

The players take included this scripted response from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, which was posted on the players' association website.

"I've taken part in several post-season runs where we have played 20 games," Brady said. "The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented. Look no further than the players that came before we did."

Sounds like a good union man. Then there was this from veteran Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis: "I know our fans may not like pre-season games, and I don't like all of them, but swapping two pre-season games for two end-of-season games -- when players already play hurt -- comes at a huge cost for the player and the team."

In the past, the owners had no real reason to object as the exhibitions were easily folded into the season-ticket packages that allowed fans to pay the price for the bad entertainment.

In recent years, though, the bulk of the tickets may be sold, but fans are staying away and that hurts perception and, more importantly, beer sales.

(Not every team can be as lucky as the Buffalo Bills remember, hoodwinking Toronto to take a pre-season game every other year and spare their season-ticket holders the cost and inconvenience.)

The owners, you might have guessed, have a markedly different opinion than that of Brady and Lewis.

"Part of it is really providing more value to our fans," Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy said. "The quality of our pre-season has really deteriorated over time."

Neither side is at the line-in-the-sand stage, but don't expect an 18-game regular-season to happen any time soon.

TURFED

Not exactly the debut the Giants were looking for at the new Meadowlands Stadium. Receiver/returner Domenik Hixon will be out for the rest of the season with a knee injury after he got caught up in the turf while fielding a punt at the team's mini camp.

Speaking before the G-men spin doctors could get to him, safety Antrel Rolle said the turf was the culprit.

"I was right there when it happened and I saw it right away," Rolle said. "And I was like, 'Damn, it don't look good.' It just got caught in the turf."

Giants GM Jerry Reese defended his, uh, turf, saying such an injury could take place on any surface.

That may be true, but as the makers of FieldTurf, the rug of choice at the Big M, acknowledge, it generally takes two to three weeks for any new surface to settle.

NO WAY, O.J.?

The longer it goes, the more it looks like Canadian O.J. Atogwe may be sentenced to more time as a St. Louis Ram.

The Windsor native and Stanford University grad figured to break the bank after five sparkling seasons with the miserable Rams. While team after team has denied interest, it looked as if Atogwe was headed to Seattle for a free agent visit next week.

The Seahawks have since told Atogwe not to bother, however, and the shopping continues. More and more it looks like he may need to re-sign with the Rams at considerably less than he originally hoped.

CORNERING THE MARKET

The mini-camp saga of Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis may soon reach a conclusion. Reports out of New York say the team is about to make Revis the richest DB the league has ever seen with a multiyear deal worth more than $100 million US.

The Jets would ad six years to Revis' rookie deal (about to enter its fourth season.)

If it happens, Revis would eclipse the three-year, $45.3 million deal signed by Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha last summer.

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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