On paper, it was probably a great idea for the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders to play in Winnipeg. They are two of the NFL’s most storied franchises hopping the northern border to continue the growth of football. The result, however, was nothing short of a mess.
The third preseason game has been widely considered as the dress rehearsal game for starters; one last tune up before taking the last week off to prevent injury and allow bubble guys to get some key reps. Coming into Thursday night’s contest, the Packers anticipated some key starters, including Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones, to make their 2019 preseason debuts and get some live game reps in the new offense. That WAS the plan, until the Packers took the field and had some major concerns about the playing conditions.
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There were some major concerns regarding the turf, especially in the endzone where the goalposts had to be moved to accommodate for the differences in an NFL field versus CFL field. Shortly before the game started, officials from both teams and the NFL made a questionable decision to go through with the game, with some caveats.
The first decision made was to shrink the field to 80 yards and use the original goal lines as the backline, making the 10-yard line the new goal line. However, field goals would still be kicked at the original distances. Officials also decided to not do any kickoffs, to keep players out of the original endzones. Possessions to start each half and after scoring plays would start on the actual 25-yard line. Still following along? This alone was probably enough to cancel the game. With the circumstances, both teams decided to hold out a number of players, with Green Bay sidelining 33 players and Oakland sitting 19.
Despite these measures, a number of key Packer players suffered injuries in the game. First-round pick Rashan Gary went down twice and had to be carted off. Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and linebacker Curtis Bolton also suffered gruesome leg injuries that can in part be attributed to the field conditions.
If the NFL never returns to Canada, it might be a good thing. The field conditions were awful and the game was lightly attended by comparison to what it would have been in Lambeau or Oakland. Maybe it was due to high ticket prices, maybe a conspiracy to give HBO content for Hard Knocks, which is following the Raiders. Regardless, until the NFL can figure out a way to ensure player safety while having to make significant adjustments to the CFL field, it may be best to stay out of Canada for the time being.
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