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Everything that’s wrong with the NFL preseason, in one night

Cam Newton has his ankle examined after going down in the preseason. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

The Raiders and Packers played on a comically short 80-yard field in Canada. The Ravens-Eagles game in Philadelphia got called off by lightning in the fourth quarter. Cam Newton and Jordan Reed got hurt.

After Thursday night, is there anyone outside a team owner’s wealth-management adviser who still supports the current length of the NFL preseason?

In Winnipeg, a game between Oakland and Green Bay that already had received a good amount of bad press descended into farce, as officials found the field unsafe in the end zone areas where the CFL goal posts formerly were located. But instead of calling the whole thing off — as happened in the 2016 Hall of Fame Game — they decided to play the game on an 80-yard field, with the 10-yard lines treated as the goal lines. The two coaches quickly decided not to let their starters go anywhere near the playing field, and the sparse crowd was treated to a night of Nathan Peterman at quarterback.

Packers and Raiders play on 80-yard field because of unsafe conditions

“We were going to have all our starters play, and it was just one of those deals,” Packers Coach Matt LaFleur said afterward, per the Associated Press. “We certainly have all played on much worse surfaces in our life, but it was just one of those deals where they weren’t playing their starters and so we just decided to sit them.”

Said Green Bay quarterback Tim Boyle of the problems with the field: “It was just a little raised. But it’s something you don’t really want to play around with, especially guys who, this is their living. This puts food on the table for them, so you don’t want to mess around with injuries.”

In New England, Newton went down on a sack in his third series.

Newton was in a walking boot after the game and the initial diagnosis was a sprained left ankle, though he will undergo more testing on Friday (X-rays were negative, for what that’s worth).

“We’re hoping it’s not too bad,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney told the team radio network, per ESPN. “We’ll find out more tomorrow. But I hope it’s not too bad.”

Newton’s 2018 season was torpedoed by shoulder problems, and Thursday night’s game was his first action since Week 15 of last season. He had surgery on the shoulder in January.

Tom Brady, meanwhile, made his first and only appearance of the preseason and completed 8 of 12 passes for 75 yards for the Patriots. He also apparently raided Newton’s hat closet.

In Philadelphia, the Eagles and Ravens cleared the field with 11:43 left in the fourth quarter because of a weather warning. They did not return, as the game eventually was canceled. Barely any starters played for either team.

Injuries. Bad fields. Lousy weather. None of these issues is new when it comes to the preseason. Neither is the lone reason to keep it at four games: NFL owners don’t want to lose the revenue they get from tickets, concessions and selling local TV rights. But the players are adamant about not trading two preseason games for two added regular season games. There was some optimism earlier in the week about the possibility of expanding the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams — thus adding two postseason games to the schedule — in exchange for cutting the preseason to three games, but the owners probably aren’t going to regard that as a fair trade as the long slog toward a new CBA continues (the current deal expires after the 2020 season).

So we’re in store for at least one more year of the preseason in its current form. Great.

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