Saints coach Sean Payton held his tongue all week.
But after beating the Panthers on the road Thursday night (which followed beating the Packers Sunday night), Payton was finally ready to let the NFL know how he felt.
“I just think it’s foolish,” Payton said, via Katherine Terrell of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I’ve got three guys that are hurt in there now.”
Right tackle Zach Strief left the game with a back injury. Wide receiver Kenny Stills (groin) and running back Mark Ingram (shoulder) got dinged up but returned.
The Saints didn’t send a player to the NFL Network’s post-game set either, a quiet protest.
Nobody likes Thursday games except the people who count money, and Payton gets that he has to play them sometimes. He just objected to losing an entire Sunday by playing a night game then having to travel on Wednesday.
When the Broncos did the Sunday night-Thursday double, they got to play both games at home.
“I think the challenges were obvious with regards to logistics,” Payton said. “Thursday night games are one thing, but to come out and play on a Sunday night and come back and play on a Thursday. It’s not an excuse for your players, you don’t want it to be, but I would say it’s crazy. It’s silly. It shouldn’t happen.
“When you actually go through the logistics and see what your players go through, they get out of the stadium Sunday night at midnight. And look, it’s an easy thing to fix.”
That’s why Strief said he didn’t buy the league’s contention that Thursdays had no affect on health and safety.
“At the end of the day, it’s baloney,” Strief said. “Do you think it’s fair to play a night game and then turn around and travel and play on a Thursday? Being conscious of player safety, why would you do that? . . .
“Nobody wants to hear it,” he said. “What difference does it make if you’re upset about it? It makes no difference about it. What’s the point in complaining? Control what you can control.”
The Saints did that on the field, handling the undermanned Panthers easily. But then it was time to talk.