Preseason exhibition football games are a necessary evil for the National Football League to function properly. Each year more and more of the high-dollar stars don’t even suit out for these lengthy encounters.

    Other players like the running backs, wide receivers, linebackers and defensive secondary backs must play in these games to get into playing shape where they take licks just like in the regular season.

    Starting quarterbacks and star defensive linemen can be seen in the first and possibly the second series of the exhibition games and that’s all. After that they become high-dollar cheerleaders for their teammates who are still on the field battling for their jobs.

    And if a star player is really unlucky, he can get hit wrong or cut the wrong way and go down with an injury. This is never good and the more extensive the medical tests, the worst the long-term prognosis.

    This is exactly what happened Saturday night to Houston Texans’ first-team running back Lamar Miller, who has been a starter for nearly a decade with the Miami Dolphins and more recently, the Texans.

    An MRI Sunday confirmed what everybody feared that Miller has a torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligament in his left knee and will undergo surgery to repair the damage and will be placed on injured reserve which will end his season before it even begins.

    Monday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle said that Miller was injured Saturday night when he took a helmet and shoulder pad hit to the knee from Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Malick Collins, which was won handily by the Pokes 34-0.

    Head Coach Bill O’Brien, who is an eternal optimist, said it was a tough thing to see. “I think our backfield situation with depth is actually decent, but it’s very difficult to lose a guy like Lamar for a lot of reasons. 

    “He’s a great pro. He’s and awesome guy in the locker room. We’ll deal with it. We’ll overcome it, and we’ll keep plugging away,” he predicted.

The Indianapolis Colts’ franchise quarterback Andrew Luck startled the football world by announcing last weekend that he was retiring from the game at the tender age of 29.

After being elected to the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons, Luck battled chronic injuries that have bothered him since 2015. 

He missed the 2017 season with a shoulder injury which wasn’t completely healed last season, but he played and led his team to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth, compared to the 4-12 without him in 2017.

While he was rehabbing his shoulder to get ready for the 2019 season, Luck was struggling with a lower-leg injury this summer and announced his retirement on Saturday. He reportedly said he was “mentally worn down.”

Luck missed the Colts’ camp with what was initially described as a strained left calf, but perhaps was more serious than that.

“The Colts cited Kevin Durant’s torn Achilles as the reason for their extreme caution with him,” according to the Chronicle. 

“Then Colts owner Jim Irsay described it as a ‘small bone’ injury, which eventually became an ankle problem. Luck’s departure leaves the Colts in a lurch, and is perhaps the highest-profile early retirement from football in decades,” the article added.

Ironically, the Colts were picked to win the AFC South by four of the Chronicle’s five football staffers in their football edition that hit the streets Sunday. The other one did pick Houston.

With both Houston and Indianapolis hurting for offense, it should cloud the AFC playoff picture immensely and throw the title to whichever team (Tennessee or Jacksonville) plays over its head.

KWICKIES…Congratulations to the Louisiana Little League team from River Ridge for winning the World Championship Sunday by blanking Curacao 8-0 at Williamsport, Pa. The team lost their first game and had to trudge their way through the loser’s bracket to make the finals. Ironically, the manager and two coaches on the winning team had zero sons playing on the team, which is very unusual.

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera says he expects injured quarterback Cam Newton to return to practice “pretty soon” without giving a timetable. Newton remains in a walking boot after sustaining a left mid-foot sprain in Carolina’s 10-3 loss to New England Thursday night. Rivera says Newton will be ready for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Los Angeles Rams.

The games will be “for real” for high school and college football this weekend. Hopefully that predicted “cool front” will make watching the games tolerable. It was difficult to “Fearlessly Forecast” the winners for high school, but college was a bit easier because of so many “sacrificial lamb” games that will end up with very lop-sided scores.

Irishman Rory McIlroy cruised to a 66 Sunday and a four-stroke victory in the final round of the FedEx Cup Tour championship. The win was worth $15 million to McIlroy as he surged past Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele to win the richest payoff in golf.

JUST BETWEEN US…It’s fortunate the Houston Astros have a 9 ½-game lead over Oakland in the American League West Division with about five weeks to go in the season. They have been playing most of the games since the All-Star game with several players from the AAA Round Rock roster because of aggravating injuries that have beset key players on the disabled list. But the Astros top four starting pitchers are among the American League’s top 10 in winning record, earned run average and strikeouts. They are searching for a fifth starter, but are getting by just fine without one. And only two hitters in the starting nine are batting below .250, with six regulars batting .280 or higher. Manager A.J. Hinch will have a pleasant task of selecting his 25-man playoff roster next month.