- - Tuesday, August 7, 2018


The Washington Redskins have their first preseason play date Thursday night against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. They call it a game, but, come on, it’s more like a play date. It means as much.

You’ll probably see just enough of Redskins starters to remain convinced — like those at Redskins Park — that this is the best roster coach Jay Gruden has had since hired in 2014, but not much more than that. You’ll see some guys who may be in the XFL three years from now, and others who may be gym teachers.

But football? You won’t be watching football — at least not real football. Professional wrestling has more credibility than preseason football.

You’ll see more shots of Alex Smith, Trent Williams and other Redskins starters yukking it up on the sidelines more than you’ll see them playing on the field.

So why not make the most of the night in New England, just across the field from Bill Belichick and company?

Can someone on the Redskins find out why cornerback Malcolm Butler was benched in the Super Bowl?

Seriously, maybe one of the Redskins can talk to one of his boys on the Patriots and solve one of the biggest mysteries in the NFL — why Belichick benched Butler in a game they wound up losing 41-33 to the Philadelphia Eagles?

Belichick has continued to refuse to answer, telling reporters that he is not going to get into last year. But don’t tell me some of those Patriots players don’t know why. So at least don’t waste the trip. Someone find out what happened.

And while they’re doing that, maybe someone on the Redskins sideline can tell us what the truth is about Josh Doctson’s heel — was it drained or not?

Former Redskins return great Brian Mitchell reported on NBC Sports Washington last week that Doctson, who has been plagued in the past by some sort of Achilles tendon injury, had his heel drained. Gruden denied the report and insisted it was “not true.”

You know, given Gruden’s typical dummy act of not really knowing what is going on with the health of his players when asked, I tend to believe Mitchell. But maybe there could be an exchange of information between players on both teams Thursday night — you know, for the greater good of the public.

The betting public.

This little game that football coaches like to play — you know, lying or refusing to disclose injury and discipline information — is about to end. It’s a practice that will likely run into a brick wall when the league gets into the betting business. And believe me, the NFL, like other leagues, will want its piece of the sports betting dollar.

That train is coming down the track fast. There are at least six sports books in operation in New Jersey, with more on the way. On Monday, Resorts Casino Hotel and DraftKings became the first company to offer mobile and online betting in the state.

Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races announced Tuesday they will open their sports book sometime before the end of the month.

And the NFL will want their cut.

In March, Sports Illustrated reported that NFL owners had a sports gambling session as part of their owners meetings in Orlando, run by the league’s executive vice president of business operations, Eric Grubman.

“We’re so early on in this process. I don’t have a clear understanding as to where we’re going to go,” Giants co-owner John Mara told Sports Illustrated. “But we’re having discussions that we’ve never had before.”’

When the NFL does forge a partnership with legalized sports betting, the days of Belichick’s secrecy and the Redskins incompetence when it comes to information will likely come to an end. You won’t be able to bench a starter in a Super Bowl game without revealing the reasons, or else risk the very credibility of the league and raise suspicion of fixes. You won’t have reports of injuries of players and then coaches trying to dismiss them without proof. Too much will be at stake.

NFL coaches are in for quite a shock.

Thom Loverro’s podcast, “Cigars & Curveballs,” is available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver network.

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