CLEVELAND -- In the National Football League, the preseason is for players to prove themselves worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster, but with ramped up levels of competition, injuries become an unfortunate by-product.
Heading into the final preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field tonight, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson is hopeful the injuries can be kept to a minimum as the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, September 10 fast approaches.
“When it is over, you are right to the regular season and you hold your breath because it all depends on how you play your players and how you get them to and from the game,” Jackson said. “It is another opportunity for us to learn how to go on the road.
“That is something we are going to have to do this year and learn how to prepare and stay focused. That is good training for our football team because it is a young team, so we try to make a huge point about that as we go.”
Cleveland Browns battle Tampa Bay Buccaneers in preseason game
According to Jackson, most of the NFL coaches he has been around “wish we could” eliminate the fourth preseason game, and instead, have two weeks’ worth of practice after the “dress rehearsal” game to prepare for the season opener.
“Yes, there is no question we wish we could, but we get it,” Jackson said. “This is a game that is scheduled.
“We have to play it. We are going to show up and play, and our players understand that. That is the mentality that I want our team to have. It doesn’t matter the opponent. It is our preparation, how we go about that during the week, and then, when they say play, we play.”
Although concerned about injuries against the Bears, Jackson plans on maximizing every bit of time he gets with the players as the regular-season opener draws near.
“What is important is that we practice,” Jackson said. “Like I told our team, let’s practice well. That is something we have done here over the last several weeks. We are learning how to practice well as we get into preparation for everything that we are trying to accomplish on game day.”
Jackson has made it a point to play several players expected to be key contributors on both sides of the ball late in the preseason games, and that is an effort to make sure everyone is as sharp as possible for when the Browns take the field against the Steelers.
“I am asking players to get better,” Jackson said. “Guys need to play. We are a really young football team. I think you guys all know that. Just because they are out there doesn’t mean that someone is mad at them or they have done something wrong.
“Some guys just need more seasoning. They need to play as much football as they can to get better and to get ready for the regular season because some of these guys will be playing a lot of football. That is all that is.”