Thursday night games could become a labor sticking point

As the NFL and the NFL Players Association continue to draw battle lines for an all-out labor war that really hasn’t gotten started yet because not much negotiation has occurred, another potential sticking point is creeping onto the radar screen.

Thursday night football.

Launched in 2006 when the current broadcast deals were structured in a way that carved out a late-season package for placement on NFL Network, there has been nary a peep out of the players in four prior years regarding any actual or perceived problems with playing games on a short week — or with the mini-bye week that comes after playing on a Thursday.

But now that the players are voicing their displeasure more loudly than ever on a wide variety of issues (due in large part to the belief that the NFL wants to take away 18 percent of their money), it should come as no surprise that players who were silent through multiple seasons of Thursday Night Football suddenly have decided they don’t like it.

“It goes back to the 18-game schedule,” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis recently said, per the Baltimore Sun.  “You have to ask yourself a real question when you schedule games like this:  Who does it help?  Because it doesn’t help the players.  That turnaround is just too quick.  You go from playing a physical game on Sunday and you have less than four days before you have to physically get back up again.  It takes a week for guys to really heal. . . .  I don’t know when they put it in but I’ve never liked it.”

So why hasn’t Lewis previously complained?  The Ravens were one of the teams that played in a Thursday night game in November 2006, the first year of the current format.  We recall not a single negative word from Lewis about the assignment.

But now that the players — rightly or wrongly — are conditioned to complain about everything, Thursday games apparently have been added to the list of gripes.

The better complaint, in our view, relates to the league’s decision to retain the games on a league-owned network that still has not achieved maximum distribution.  In past discussions, multiple league sources have estimated that the NFL could earn $350 million per year or more by selling those games to the highest network bidder.

And we’ve got a feeling the NFL will want to expand the Thursday night concept in the next labor deal, possibly to a full season.

It potentially could be a $1 billion per year proposition.

So if the NFL wants the players to shrink their slice in order to help the owners grow the pie, the NFLPA should insist on the pie being maxed out via the sale of the Thursday night package.

17 responses to “Thursday night games could become a labor sticking point

  1. They better hammer out this new labor deal and get it taken care of, or the magnitude of the ramifications will be substantial. The PU and the owners need to figure this out, and fast. An 18 game schedule is a stupid idea, as is/was Thursday night games that are not on Thanksgiving. (Tradition) They need to quit playing the mind games and negotiation games through the media and just pound this thing out already, to put all of us at ease. (The fans)

  2. “So if the NFL wants the players to shrink their slice in order to help the owners grow the pie, the NFLPA should insist on the pie being maxed out via the sale of the Thursday night package.”

    So in other words, Thursday night games are a problem…unless there is enough $ to make the problem less of a problem.

    Fans don’t want to hear it either way. The bitching from overpaid players and high earning owners is just putting us off. It is a lot like campaign ads.
    Negotiate a resolution and move forward…without all of the insincere whining, cause we don’t care.

  3. It takes a week to heal from a football game… I wonder how long #52 thinks it takes to heal from stab wounds.

  4. Hate the Thursday night games. You can usually tell the teams are not fully prepared to play. I don’t mind the Saturday night games in the late season.

  5. First: What’s with the WordPress thing, Florio?
    I tried to login to make a comment was told my ID didn’t exist.

    Is WordPress more “secure” somehow, or is somebody making some $$$ from this change. Pain in the Lower Regions.

    Second: As far as I’m concerned, they could do away with Thursday football altogether. The only way I could see myself getting interested in TNF is if it’s on broadcast TV. I don’t get the NFL Network, I have no intention of paying to get the NFL network, and there’s only so many nights a week I’m going out to my local sports bar to watch a game.

  6. i have no problem with thursday night games, just schedule them after a team has their bye week and there should be no issue at all as far as recovery and healing. what they need to get rid of are these ridiculous London games which do nothing but steal home games from deserving fans (whose taxes probably fund the stadium the team plays in) and alienate season ticket holders. if you play overseas, you should still be guaranteed your 8 home games, its ridiculous to do anything else.

    “The better complaint, in our view, relates to the league’s decision to retain the games on a league-owned network that still has not achieved maximum distribution. In past discussions, multiple league sources have estimated that the NFL could earn $350 million per year or more by selling those games to the highest network bidder.”

    – failed logic. first, i’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are only 2 NATIONALLY TELEVISED games per week, the rest are regional. For instance, I live in FL (in the Buccaneers market no less) and only get to see my Steelers on local TV on rare occassions. Why is airing games on NFL network any different? i’m sure that one of the ideas behind airing the games on NFL Network (which doesnt have max distribution) is for customers in markets that do not get it to pressure their cable provider to get it, thereby creating max distribution. also, how does the league making an additional $350 million help anyone but the league? the money they are already making is significantly impacting the labor negotiations because it has made the league very arrogant in their thinking that the players need them more than they need the players and can thus, basically shove any negotiating points down the players throats in hopes that the players will reach the same conclusion.

  7. Most of these players earn more in one year than I will earn in my entire lifetime.

    They need to shut up and play football. How much more money do they friggin’ need? If someone would pay me half of what these guys make, I would be happy as hell to play on a short week, get banged up and recuperate in my private hot tub and sauna in my multi-million dollar home.

    It makes me sick to my stomach to hear these ungrateful players complaining about their pay or their work conditions.

    In the end, its the fan that pays for it all. Frankly, as much as I love the NFL, I stopped getting my money’s worth decades ago when the salaries started going through the roof.

  8. Yeah I don’t mind the holiday games like thanksgiving or x-mas, but as stated earlier the NFL has become a juggernaut, from not playing games out of respect for baseball and the World Series, too cramming football down your throat, while I do LOVE football and would watch over it over any other sport. Sunday/Monday hell even late season Saturdays after college is wrapped up would be fine. Thursday just to have football because they can draw more viewers is overkill.

  9. Can’t they structure it so teams play Thursday when coming off bye weeks?

    With an 18 game schedule and two bye weeks it shouldn’t be too hard to structure.

  10. They’ve been playing on Thanksgiving since what the 1950s? I don’t recall the Cowboys or Lions players bitching about it. Plus you get extra time off for your next game.

  11. Fortunately, despite the NFL’s best efforts to exclude cable subscribers from all things NFL, I have Comcast, so I can get the NFL Network. Unfortunately, Comcast requires you to buy an entire sports package just to get the NFL Network, which I really didn’t want to buy in this economy.

    Two seasons ago, I was sick as a dog on a Wed. and the Steelers were set to play on Thurs. Finally, couldn’t take it. Called the cable company late Wed. and told them I’d subscribe to the package on one condition: Get someone out to hook it up before kickoff on Thurs.

    Please NFLPA … don’t take away my Thursday night football 🙂

  12. The players are right to be pissed, especially if the NFL goes to an 18 game schedule AND has a seasons worth of Thursday night games. They are going to kill the players, and hence kill the product. I have the NFL network and I don’t watch the Thursday night games unless the Eagles are on. Even if the games moved to another network I don’t believe I would watch, hell I don’t watch Monday night football

  13. What is so difficult for the NFL to figure out? Correlate the bye week teams with the following Thursday games (including Thanksgiving). No one should be playing on four day’s rest. It really is that easy!

  14. Dear Mr. Lewis.

    Quit your whining. When you aren’t out partying at sleazy nightclubs with your hoodlum buddies, you are “playing” football. 16 times a year for about four hours at a time. You also have more than five months to hang out with your buds during the off-season. I am sure that there is a ton of other quality time spent getting rub downs and taking saunas, sitting in boring meetings and lifting weights, but rumor has it that you are paid quite handsomely for this “playing” football deal to the tune of $10,000,000 per year not counting your endorsement cash.

    I, on the other hand work more than 70 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. I have done this for the past eight years and have yet to have more than two days off in a row in those eight years. I realize that my work in my tiny little deli cannot compare to your super impressive football “playing” that you do 16 times a year—breaking guys collar bones, cracking skulls, smashing breastbones and all that raging mayhem that you do, so keep it to your self you big baby, because in twenty or so years when you are drooling on your shirt and forgetting which way to get to the bathroom nobody is going to give a hoot about you.

  15. I’m glad Thursday Night Football is here. More football > Less football, and this give me, as an NFL fan, the opportunity to watch teams I otherwise wouldn’t get to see. I’ll totally support the effort in making TNF a full season thing.

    As for bye week correlation, they could do that for a limited time, but not for the whole season.

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