Thursday Night Football: Bad Games, Players At Risk… So Here’s The Solution
Another Thursday night has come and gone. And on a night that used to be dubbed “Must See TV”, football fans, fantasy fans, fans that may have a financial investment in the Thursday Night NFL offering… got another clunker in Carolina's 31-13 sinking of the Bucs.
To review, here are your scores of TNF over the first eight weeks of the season:
Outside of that Week 2 thriller between the Jets and Pats (a rain-soaked horror that featured no less than 10 drops and seven points combined in the second half), no game has been decided by less than six points. And the play—the aforementioned drops, turnovers, some players looking more than a step slow—has been understandably sub-par.
When it comes down to it, there really is only one full day of prep for the Thursday night game (for the road team, anyway). Mondays are for recovery and film study. Tuesday, practice. Wednesday, travel. Thursday, walkthrough. The result is about what you’d expect: Sloppy, tired, pre-season-esque.
In a related story, the league talks about going to greater lengths to protect its players. But having them suit up three days after playing a Sunday game certainly isn’t one way to go about that. Simply put, injuries have almost no time to heal, and invariably are only made worse by playing Thursday night. But don’t take my word for it… just listen to 49ers veteran Anquan Boldin:
"There are some things that just don’t make sense to me,” Boldin said. “I mean if you’re so concerned about player safety then why do you have every team in the league playing on Thursday night when they just competed on Sunday, knowing how difficult it is for guys to get back to being healthy after playing on Sunday? Guys really don’t feel like they’re back till probably Thursday or Friday to prepare for that next week. The league can say they’re doing things to protect guys, but I’m not one of the guys buying it.”
Most columnists are good at one thing: Complaining. It’s the same stuff you read across the board: Owners are greedy, players are selfish, something needs to be done! And once you’re ready for the punch line, the column ends. No solution is offered.
But not here, my friends…
So what to do about the Thursday night game?
Cancel it in the name of player safety? With the money involved and what it means to the NFL Network, that ain’t happening.
Just tell the players to pipe down? Heal their wounds in their Jacuzzis sitting in the trunks of their Range Rovers?
So what to do?
The league has bye weeks that run from Week 4 to Week 13. So why not just arrange it where two teams that have a bye week in, say, Week 4 play on Thursday Night in Week 5. Two teams that have a bye in Week 5 play on Thursday night in Week 6, and so on. The bye week essentially becomes 10 days off, play a game, 10 days off. The players union would go for that…
Once Week 14 comes and byes are no more, we’re already in December. No worries there…just move the game from Thursday to Saturday night. The competition that normally exists is gone once the college football season regular season slate basically finishes up Thanksgiving weekend, so no worries there from a ratings or respect perspective.
And there is precedent for Saturday night games before: The NFL used to have one for years up until recently: Remember the Cowboys going into New Orleans and beating Drew Brees and the 13-0 Saints back in 2009? Of course you do. The Saturday night December game fills the perfect void left by college football, and allows for players to recover longer in the process.
Not all solutions in these cases are completely perfect, however. There’s still the matter of having no bye weeks leading up to a Thursday night game in Week 2, 3 and 4. These three weeks are where the league needs to abandon the Thursday idea altogether. Ultimately, it won’t hurt their product enough to make cable operators shy away from paying for NFL Network. Besides, 14 weeks of exclusive Thursday/Saturday games is still an enticing package, and early-season games always rate lower (outside of opening weekend) due to nicer weather and games simply not meaning as much, anyway…
So there you have it.
A simple solution to a vexing problem.
It addresses both player safety and the bottom line.
When was the last time you saw that feat accomplished?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll need to get some ice for my elbow from patting myself on the back so much.
Follow Joe Concha on Twitter @ConchSports
Photo via Getty
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