February 4, 2023
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ColumnsThe Hot Stove

The Hot Stove: Thursday night hurting NFL teams

Last Thursday’s NFL matchup between the New England Patriots and New York Jets was a thriller that came down to the final seconds and ended with an all-too-familiar loss for the Jets.

But even though my favorite team defeated a division rival, both teams were just four days removed from playing another game, which represents a hypocrisy in the NFL today.

The NFL has spent years saying it advocates for player safety and has even made changes to the game like penalizing head shots or moving up kickoffs to increase touchbacks. At the same time, almost every team is scheduled to play one Thursday night game this season, four days after playing the week before.

Though the NFL has proved the amount of injuries per game in Thursday games is 5.2 compared to 5.3 regular Sunday games, it’s common sense that three days is not an adequate amount of rest between professional football games. Even my teammates and I on the cross-country team don’t run two 8-kilometer races on that short of a rest.

Of course there are plenty of football fans who enjoy Thursday Night Football, but what about the players? Two weeks ago, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster spoke out against Thursday games.

“I don’t know a player that likes it,” Foster said. “I think it’s just the league’s way of trying to generate more revenue.”

After Foster gave his opinion on Thursday football, some knucklehead fans tweeted out a simplistic viewpoint that many fans share: “Shut up, Arian Foster … I need more football and I love Thursday Night Football so recover and play, dammit.”

First of all, this fan is not one of the about 1,700 players in the NFL right now, and there’s no player at any level of sport that should be forced to play that often. Sure, the players have signed up to play when their team is scheduled. But when the average NFL career is 3.3 years, according to the NFL Player’s Association, there’s a clear indication that players need more rest and proper recovery or else nothing will change.

To be fair, the players profit from the Thursday games as well. In fact, the players retain half the revenue from the Thursday games, but this is about something more important than money. Fans love Thursday football, until their star player goes down and is out for the rest of the season. If that happens, those fans won’t be as thrilled about the NFL gaining more viewers and more money for playing one Thursday game per week.

There’s no perfect system for Thursday games, but don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily want to see it go away — especially on Thanksgiving. The NFL could change Thursday football by scheduling teams that are opening their season or coming off bye weeks.

The bye week system may have to change, but at least the NFL would solve the short week issue. Sure, some teams would get some extra rest, and some wouldn’t play on Thursday at all, but with the current state of the NFL, maybe the players can use the extra time to properly rest and recover and take care of more important things off the field.