Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon was asked during Wednesday's press conference about his take on preseason games. He hesitated at first.
"Well, honestly nobody cares about my opinion on that," Judon said. "The rule makers are going to make their own rules."
But Judon underestimates himself there. There are few better examples of why the exhibition games matter. Preseason games were made for players like him, a fifth-round draft pick in 2016 by Baltimore who needed those early-season looks outside of a practice setting to make a name for himself.
Those "rule makers" Judon referenced -- the NFL and the NFL Players Association -- discussed playing all four standard preseason games during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in 2020, then cut that down to two and eventually one. Ultimately the league and the players' representatives landed on zero for this year. It just didn't make sense.
No one knows if that will revert back in 2021 or if the schedule changes will become permanent. Certainly there are many league executives, fans and other stake holders who see merit in cutting out the preseason altogether in favor of scrimmages. Especially if it means more regular-season games. But not everyone is so ready to call it quits on those exhibition games.
"Honestly -- I'd like to see preseason games. We have some guys in this locker room that didn't get to show to the world what they could do," Judon said. "Now unfortunately they don't get to suit up on Sundays."
This is personal for Judon precisely because he was a fifth-round draft pick out of Grand Valley State. He didn't have the name recognition of someone from a Power-5 school. He needed to put good things on film to impress the Baltimore coaches under the bright lights of game conditions. Maybe players don't need the drudgery of four games in August. But every little bit helps.
"I'm a fan of at least two preseason games, one home and one away," Judon said.
It simulates how travel works in the NFL, how to deal with the details of playing in road venues, what the atmosphere is like in your own stadium. No preseason games at all adds challenges for a rookie class already trying to adjust to the league under difficult circumstances. No one gets that better than Matthew Judon.