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A shorter NFL preseason isn't the cure for ACL injuries

The number of players out for the year due to ACL tears continues to climb, but it's not an unprecedented level nor is it an easy problem to solve.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When Orlando Scandrick went down with an ACL tear on Tuesday, he joined a long list of players who have gone down with the same injury before the start of the 2015 regular season. According to ACLRecoveryClub, the list of players who have already suffered an ACL tear has reached 25 names with the additions of Scandrick and Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Kona Schwenke.

That's not an unusual amount, though. The list of players out with an ACL tear reached 31 before the beginning of the 2013 season and 22 in 2014, so 25 is close to the number that has come to be expected.

With so many players gone before meaningful football even starts, including stars like Jordy Nelson, Ryan Clady and Kelvin Benjamin, the question is: what can the NFL do about it?

Not much. While the immediate reaction is to draw conclusions about what the high amount of season-ending knee injuries means, the reality is that very few were the result collisions with another player. Players like Benjamin and Dante Fowler Jr. went down in practice while trying to plant and cut , and even Nelson, who suffered his injury in a game, went down without contact.

Advances in medicine have made successful recoveries from ACL tears more common and very rarely do knee injuries in one season affect the next. Even Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, who suffered an ACL tear in Week 17 of the 2014 season, is optimistic that he'll be ready to go for Week 1, less than nine months after the original injury.

The feat is becoming more and more common, although Scandrick faces the challenge of rehabilitating an MCL tear as well. However, Adrian Peterson suffered a similar knee injury in December 2011 and returned to start 16 games in 2012. That year he ran for 2,097 yards, the second-highest total in NFL history, and 12 touchdowns.

Some of the NFL's biggest stars have called for a shortened preseason to solve the problem of early injuries. Peterson has called for a cut down of preseason games, while Aaron Rodgers is in favor of no preseason at all. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and FOX analyst Troy Aikman took to Twitter to say four preseason games is too much.

The biggest beneficiaries of preseason games aren't players like Peterson or Rodgers, though. Players on the roster bubble revel in the opportunity to show coaches what they can do with live reps in game situations. Sean Spence tore three knee ligaments in the 2012 preseason, but still had this to say to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about the exhibition games:

"But I was a rookie, and I wanted to make a name for myself. Injuries are going to happen. I love this game, so anytime I get to put on a helmet and go out there and compete, I'm up for it."

With so many injuries occurring without contact, or in practice, it's also tough to entirely put the blame on preseason. Starting the regular season earlier might lessen the amount of injuries in meaningless games, but it certainly wouldn't make things any safer. The unfortunate reality is that devastating knee injuries are a part of sports, whether there is contact or not.

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