Week three of the preseason is the game in which the Bucs’ starters will get their most playing time before the regular season starts when they take on the Browns Friday night.
What it also means, though, is that it’s the last week in which head coaches around the NFL have to sweat out getting through a game with all of their best players healthy.
We’ve seen incidents before of starting players suffering from injury in the preseason, such as the Patriot’s Julian Edelman in 2017 and as recently as last Friday night for New York Jets’ starting linebacker Avery Williamson. Both players suffered torn ACL’s and are done for the year.
Just getting through practice without injury is difficult. The Bucs are all too familiar with that as Lavonte David has been out since the beginning of training camp and Vita Vea has missed most of it.
It’s a challenge that each coach has to deal with, including Bruce Arians. The constant battle of getting your players in game shape versus the risk of injury.
“That’s a catch-22,” Arians said. “It always has been and always will be. It’s just like going out and tackling in practice, you got to do it, and you just got to hold your breath that nobody gets hurt.”
Arians even had to wrestle with that idea during last Friday’s preseason game against the Dolphins as he was trying figure how long to play the offensive line.
“It’s odd,” Arians said. “I went to the offensive line and said ‘How much you need to play? And they said oh, we need a half. I said, I don’t think you do.’ They wanted to play a half to just to get in a little more rhythm.”
There’s been a long debate about shortening the preseason to just two games in order to preserve the health of the starters. The problem with that is the aforementioned lack of playing time, along with having less of a chance to see the backups that you may want to keep for the 53-man roster.
The two-time Coach of the Year winner would be all for less preseason games, with one important provision. He even gave a solution to keep up the level of competition in camp.
“I’m for it as long as we don’t cut the number of practices.” Arians said. We can’t cut the number of practices. We hardly practice now in pads, and if we’re going to cut practice time we need to get practice time in the spring. I’m all for two games, and then have maybe three or four practices against another team, because you get more out of those practices then you do in some of these games.”
“Especially if you’re working with a new system, young quarterback and you drafted him, you need those practice times. It would be too much of an advantage if you’re a veteran team.”