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The true meaning of preseason

August 14, 2010 - Zach Baker

The NFL preseason is here, which means I'll be on Chris Ivory watch for the next few weeks, keeping up on whether the former TU Dragon will make the Saints. Being that he played in the first half yesterday, I'd say early odds are promising.

As for fans, the preseason has but one real issue-- hoping players don't get hurt.

The Browns open tonight with the Packers. Sure, you want to see how they look. Yes, I hope the offense runs smoothly.

But more than anything else, hope Josh Cribbs doesn't play much and Joe Haden stays off his back.

There's a story I remember when I think about preseason. In 2002, the Browns opened with the Vikings. I was working that night, but remembered to tape the game.

In 2002, the Browns had signed plenty of veterans, and then-president Carmen Policy had set expectations high. For Cleveland, "high" means playoffs.

Butch Davis was in his second year, after the most uplifting 7-9 season of all time in 2001. The fans were ready for success.

As I was working my shift, I asked a co-worker, who had just come in, how the Browns looked.

"They looked great," he said. "But it's only preseason."

When I arrived home, I popped in the tape.

About two minutes into the first quarter, I realized the co-worker had left out one small detail.

Linebacker Jamir Miller, the Browns best player, had suffered a major injury and was carted off the field. His season, and as it turned out, his career, was over.

The fact that the Browns won the game was meaningless. Miller had 13 sacks in 2001. Without him, the defense was mediocre. The season was altered.

The Browns did make the playoffs -- with a 9-7 record. But the success masked the reality that the organization was still in trouble.

Had Miller played a few more years, would the Browns have been that much better?

I don't know. Maybe not. But it was the biggest thing to happen to the team that season. Yet my co-worker only remembered the scores, the win, the meaningless success of a preseason win.

There are but two things that matter in preseason:

1. Staying healthy.

2. Seeing undrafted players get a shot.

That's it. Now enjoy the game.



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