Gettin’ ready: Practices allow coaches to hold star players out
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady will get his reps in joint practices against the Miami Dolphins this week instead of an exhibition game. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t played a preseason snap since 2018.
Justin Herbert is expected to again watch from the sideline this month.
Thirty of the NFL’s 32 teams will kick off their preseason schedules this week — the Raiders and Jaguars already played in the Hall of Fame Game — and many teams will hold their starters out until the games count in the standings.
For Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles, it’s an easy decision to keep the 45-year-old Brady on the bench when Tampa Bay hosts Miami on Saturday night. The teams will hold joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday. Those are valuable reps in a more controlled setting.
“Obviously, with one less preseason game right now, you need to get all the work in that you can get in,” Bowles said about joint practices.
Coaches have been getting used to the shortened preseason since the league and the NFL Players Association eliminated one exhibition game in the 2020 collective bargaining agreement. That year, there were no preseason games because of COVID-19.
“I thought we were OK last year with it,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I felt pretty good about that. You’re going to make sure that your guys get enough work in there that are going to play.
And at the same time, you try to balance it out where you can see the young guys. So, it’s always that fourth game that you got to see the young guys quite a bit. But again, we’ve worked that out where we’ll get a good look and we’ll see them.”
More teams are holding joint practices with their opponents ahead of games now that the preseason schedule has been cut down. A total of 23 teams are doing joint sessions with one team and seven clubs are doing it with two. Teams weren’t permitted to hold joint sessions last season because of COVID-19 protocols.
“Live exposure versus different people is a really good evaluation tool to see where we’re at,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said.
Philadelphia will have joint practices with Cleveland and Miami.
First-year coaches have a slight disadvantage with one fewer game. Undrafted rookies and players competing for a roster spot miss out the most.
“I think every coach has their own philosophy,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said. “There’s people who don’t play their guys at all. There’s people that play them a little bit more than others. I think you have to do, what I’ve learned, is what’s best for your team. Being around different teams and different coaches, kind of what you need as your team and your team development. Being our first year, we’ll try to decide what’s best for us with our guys.”
Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley took a conservative approach in his first preseason in 2021 and plans to do the same so Herbert isn’t expected to take any snaps. The Chargers have joint sessions with Dallas next week.
“I think that it will be similar philosophically as last year,” Staley said. “If we know who you are, from an evaluation standpoint, we don’t need to evaluate you, then you’re probably not going to play in the preseason, but if there’s — whether it’s a role or whether it’s a young player that we feel like those experiences are going to benefit them, then that’s the direction that we’re going to go. Then, your health is a big, big factor in it, too.”
Packers coach Matt LaFleur has already said Rodgers won’t play Friday in Green Bay’s first two preseason games, but he has not ruled him out of the last one.
If he plays, Rodgers wants more than one series.
“I definitely don’t see any benefit to playing one series,” he said. “If we’re going to play, we should play and play a quarter, a couple of series, two to three series. Just suiting up for four plays, to me, is a waste.”
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels was pleased to have his team play the NFL preseason opener last week. The Raiders beat Jacksonville 27-11 with Derek Carr, Davante Adams and several starters sitting out.
“We’re grateful that we have four. I know somebody else may not like that, but I’m really happy that we have four opportunities to do this,” McDaniels said afterward. “There are definitely some things that we noticed during the game flow and operation that we can do better and fix, and we’ll focus on that this week.”