Plenty of players complain about playing on Thursday, after playing on Sunday. Few if any complain about playing on the fourth Thursday in November.
For those who try incessantly to shout down legitimate player concerns about playing on Thursday after playing on Sunday, the absence of historic complaints about playing on Thanksgiving has become one of their favorite “but what about?” arguments. The reality, as demonstrated via appearances by both Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen on Friday’s PFT Live, is that the allure of playing on Thanksgiving trumps concerns about playing with only three full days off between games.
Even with the Vikings-Lions game starting at 11:30 a.m. CT (and even though the Lions are harder to beat at home on Thanksgiving), Rudolph and Griffen welcomed the opportunity to participate in games that carry a strong sense of tradition and pride. (It probably also helps that they won.)
But it’s one thing to play with limited recovery time on a day that is deemed to be special. It’s another thing to do it every given week, under circumstances that seem to be a money grab by the league — and that seem to conflict with the league’s supposed health and welfare epiphany.
Asked earlier this week on PFT Live to comment on short-week football, Patriots defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois had a two-word response: “Player safety.”
Despite the efforts to justify short-week football by rattling off misleading stats about injury rates on Thursdays vs. injury rates on Sundays, don’t be surprised if the league changes it tune as soon as next year, especially if it can’t find enough three-letter network money to justify the effort. A limited Thursday night schedule remains possible, with only teams who had the prior Sunday off playing on any given Thursday.
At a time when many believe the NFL has become tone deaf on too many topics, this is one area where it can create the impression that it “gets it,” even if it only gets there due to a lack of sufficient interest from the likes of CBS, NBC, FOX, or ABC to pay $45 million per game (and to finance the production of multiple other NFLN broadcasts) for the right to televise up to 10 total Thursday night games per year.
For the full Rudolph and Griffen interviews, check out Friday’s PFT Live at Apple Podcasts, where you should subscribe to the show, rate it, and review it.