Before the San Francisco 49ers vs Minnesota Vikings preseason game on Saturday, both teams went against one another this week in joint practices. While it’s something that is gaining increasing popularity in the NFL, it seems players are opposed to it.
NFL coaches have increasingly chosen to sit their starters in preseason games, instead using the exhibition matchups purely for backups and those fighting for spots at the end of a 53-man roster. As a replacement for those in-game reps against legitimate competition, teams have started holding joint practices.
They are certainly popular among fans and coaches. It allows a coaching staff to see how some of their players in position battles fare against some equal competition in a controlled environment. While there is still an unavoidable injury risk, the practice setting is easier to control. From the perspective of fans, there is even more excitement and intensity when their favorite team competes against an opponent from another city and it all happens on a field that brings them closer to the action.
However, not everyone loves it. Speaking to Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports, 49ers’ wideout Brandon Aiyuk didn’t mince words with his feelings toward joint practices this week against Minnesota.
Aiyuk acknowledged that he understands why head coach Kyle Shanahan held joint practices and the approach he took with them. However, he found it “a little boring” in large part because he wasn’t very involved in the offense and everything felt like basic things the team went through in July.
Why NFL players don’t like joint practices
Aiyuk isn’t the only player who dislikes joint practices. Many NFL stars, including Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In 2019, the future Hall of Famer said he would be happy if Green Bay never held a joint practice again. Of course, the tradition continues with the Packers wrapping up a combined practice with the New Orleans Saints this week.
There are a number of issues some have with this increasing trend. For one, players are put in a position where they have to use the moves they’ve worked on all summer against competition they’ll face in the upcoming preseason game and during the regular season.
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There’s also a health element to this. Fights are a common occurrence during joint practices, with punches routinely thrown on a daily basis and scuffles breaking out far more than players experience during a normal practice. The atmosphere also makes players feel compelled to take things to another level, leading to reckless hits and violent collisions that wouldn’t happen normally.
Of course, this isn’t going to stop anytime soon. The NFL CBA extends through 2030, meaning there isn’t a real opportunity for the NFL Players Association to make changes. Considering how much fans and coaches like joint practices, they’ll likely be sticking around.