John Harbaugh calls for preseason changes after Benjamin Watson tears Achilles

BALTIMORE -- After watching two of his players get carried off the field Saturday night -- including tight end Benjamin Watson, who is expected to miss the entire regular season with a torn Achilles -- Ravens coach John Harbaugh was critical of the number of preseason games.

"It's not the '70s anymore," Harbaugh said after the Ravens' 30-9 win over the Detroit Lions. "These guys playing in these games -- it's tough -- and they're not meaningful games. They are important to get better, and they improve us. But we football coaches can find ways to get our guys ready and get our players evaluated without the kind of risk that a game necessarily entails.

"I'm really hopeful that the union and the league can get together and do something that's good for everybody -- especially what's good for the players and for the fans."

Watson, 35, tore his right Achilles tendon on Baltimore's first offensive play of the game. Running back Kenneth Dixon sprained his left knee late in the second quarter and will undergo an MRI on Sunday, although Harbaugh doesn't believe it's a serious injury.

Harbaugh indicated his stance on the four-game preseason has been a long-standing one and isn't a reaction to losing two impact players in one half.

"If you go more games, fewer preseason games and bigger rosters, that's good for everybody," Harbaugh said. "To me, that's something that they can put their heads together and work out. It would be a positive."

Asked for his thoughts on the right number of preseason games, Harbaugh said, "If I had my choice, I'd go none. That might be an extreme point, but we could run scrimmages, or we could run practices against other teams and figure it out. We'd all be in the same boat. That's for people higher up than me to decide."

Linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has been outspoken on other league issues, was not as passionate as Harbaugh when asked about his position on reducing preseason games.

"Anytime you line up on a football field and risk getting hurt, it's out there," Suggs said. "Truth be told, we need some of these games ... just maybe not four ... maybe three, maybe two. But we do need some of them, but other than that, people getting hurt, it's very unfortunate, but we know it's part of the game."

Watson, who was the Ravens' first free-agent signing this offseason, suffered the injury when he tripped over his feet while running a route over the middle. He was carried off the field and couldn't put any weight on his right leg.

He is scheduled to have an MRI on Sunday and on Saturday night tweeted out thanks for all the "love, encouragement and prayer."

Watson was coming off a career year in New Orleans with 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns. He had been one of the more durable tight ends, missing only one game in the past four seasons.

The Ravens are down to one healthy tight end with experience: Crockett Gillmore. Baltimore has been without Dennis Pitta (fractured finger) and Maxx Williams (undisclosed) for most of the preseason.