The two teams were in Winnipeg on Thursday for their Week 3 preseason game, in which starters typically play, but there was one problem: The field had to be shortened to 80 yards.
In the Canadian Football League, goalposts are located in the field of play at the goal line, so they had to be moved back in order for the Raiders and Packers to play there. Yet, both teams raised safety concerns over the hole/patch where the goalposts were originally located.
Instead of cancelling the game, they decided to play on a shortened, 80-yard field where the end zones would start at the 10-yard-line on both ends. There were no kickoffs and each possession began at the 25-yard-line, which was technically the 15-yard line.
Factoring in the conditions, among other things, the Packers made 33 players inactive, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, while the Raiders sat Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs and Vontaze Burfict among their starters.
For the Packers, sitting all their starters was not the initial plan.
“We were going to have all our starters play, and it was just one of those deals,” Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur said after the game. “We certainly have all played on much worse surfaces in our life, but it was just one of those deals where they weren’t playing their starters and so we just decided to sit them.”
The Raiders won the game, 22-21, but head coach Jon Gruden said that playing on the shortened field did not affect his team or their decisions.
“I’m not gonna make a big deal about the field,” he told reporters after the game. “We liked the field. We thought the field was perfectly ready to roll, you’ll have to ask Green Bay about that. Didn’t impact our play-calling or evaluations, we just adapted as they did to the new dimensions on the field.”
Fans and media, on the other hand, were not so thrilled about it. There is already a disdain among fans for NFL preseason games because it is a watered-down product, and the Packers and Raiders playing their backups on an 80-yard field certainly did not do much to alleviate that perception.
Preseason games continue to be a problem for the NFL. Starters do not play, and if they do, they are subject to injuries that could affect them in the regular season.
With the collective bargaining agreement expiring after the 2020 season, it will be interesting to see if there will be any changes to the preseason going forward.