The NFL has more channels showing more games on more days than ever before. For the average fan, this can be a good thing, but for the players and coaches involved, not so much.
Football can be a brutal game, and that perception has increased in recent years as the true toll of the league’s concussion problem becomes clearer. Commissioner Roger Goodell has instituted several changes aimed at improving player safety — harsher penalties for hits to the head, more stringent concussion testing and financial support of research programs — but according to some players and ex-coaches, the NFL’s insistence on Thursday night games and an expanded schedule might run counter to those goals of player safety.
Eight-year veteran running back Reggie Bush knows better than most the strain that playing even once a week can put on his body. When Thursday night games cut into his recovery time, he says he’s “not a huge fan” of the idea.
“We don’t get a lot of time for our bodies to recover,” Bush told Ashley Dunkrak of CBS Detroit. “Football games — I always try to relate them to for the average person — it’s just like being in a car crash. Like literally every time you’re getting hit is like being in a car crash. It’s tough to get your body back ready that quick for a game on Thursday.”
To go along with the traditional Sunday games and Monday night football, which has run since 1970, the NFL began scheduling games on Thursdays in 2006. The first few years of the program featured just eight games, while the last two years have seen an additional five matchups tacked onto the calendar.
The tight schedule of games almost every other day can wear players down, Bush says.
“I don’t think it’s enough [recovery] time, and I’m glad we only have to do it once,” he said.
Players aren’t the only ones who suffer from a shortened week. Coaches are affected, too.
“We’re not supposed to say this aloud while we’re coaching,” former Baltimore Ravens head coach and current FOX Sports analyst Brian Billick said, “but I can say it now: Players and coaches mostly despise the Thursday games.”
Billick coached the Ravens from 1999-2007, and though he only coached in one Thursday night game, it sounds like he’d seen enough.
“It leads to a schedule that’s even more maniacal than usual for coaches,” he said. “And it’s a physical ordeal for players to recover in time to strap on a helmet Thursday — especially late in the season, when they’ve been beaten up and worn down by the relentless schedule, with only one bye week since early August.”
Despite the legitimate concerns of players and coaches, the NFL has been of a one-track mind lately when it comes to expansion. Whispers of extended playoffs have been swirling for years, and despite the lackluster reputation of the league’s London games, three more for the 2014 season were announced on Dec. 4.
If Reggie Bush was worried about a short week with Thursday games, he better pack his alarm clock when the Lions fly across the pond to play the Falcons on Oct. 26, 2014.
Kickoff: 9:30 a.m.
Photo via Twitter/@DetroitLionsNFL