7.4 C
New York

Commanders players discuss pros and cons of Thursday NFL games


Within the two weeks since Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a serious head injury on “Thursday Night Football” — which led to an investigation, a fired doctor and altered concussion protocols — the NFL has buzzed about player safety.

Notably, in several recent games, referees appeared to exit of their approach to protect quarterbacks by calling controversial roughing-the-passer penalties.

“I believe the league is attempting to make an announcement,” Washington Commanders defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said Tuesday. “They’re overreacting to what happened to Tua.”

Tagovailoa’s situation highlighted a duality of “Thursday Night Football”: the worth of a star quarterback playing in prime time and the danger of pushing through a daunting injury on a brief week. It was dire enough to prompt the NFL and NFL Players Association to swiftly eliminate the exception that had allowed Tagovailoa to return to the sphere after he took successful by which his head appeared to forcibly hit the turf the previous Sunday.

However the severity and significance of Tagovailoa’s injury didn’t appear to faze any Commanders.

This week, as Washington prepared to face the Chicago Bears on Thursday night, several players said the situation was sad but only a reminder of football’s inherent risks and the NFL’s behemoth business might. Several added that they hate “Thursday Night Football” — “It sucks,” linebacker Cole Holcomb said — but that Tagovailoa’s concussion simply underscored the hazards they don’t have any selection but to just accept.

Svrluga: Ron Rivera says change won’t occur overnight. He’s 1,006 nights in.

Though some studies suggest Thursday games are literally much like games on other days of the week by way of injury rates and quality of play, players have complained the league is prioritizing profit over safety since 2006, when the NFL first introduced “Thursday Night Football.” Prior to now decade-and-a-half, despite players recurrently expressing disdain, it’s grow to be a revenue driver and cultural mainstay. Even considered one of its loudest critics — former NFL cornerback Richard Sherman, who once called “Thursday Night Football” a “poopfest” and a “middle finger” to players — cashed in to grow to be a Thursday night commentator.

“I don’t prefer it, but … [the NFL] is business, so they will do what’s best for his or her business. I understand that,” Allen said. “We are able to complain about all of it day. It is not going to vary anything.”

This week, Coach Ron Rivera took extra precaution along with his players. He told them to not wear helmets at practice to scale back the prospect of accidental collisions. He adopted the approach because Carolina Panthers star linebacker Luke Kuechly suffered a concussion within the team’s Thursday game in each 2016 and 2017. The team doctors suggested the cumulative effect of subconcussive hits while wearing a helmet even in practice could have caused the top injuries.

“[We’re] just really attempting to be mindful of that and [to] get these guys to simply form of calm down,” Rivera said. “Hopefully, come Thursday, they’re able to roll.”

In 2018, within the Los Angeles Chargers’ locker room, two players argued about whether players benefited from “Thursday Night Football.” Left tackle Russell Okung said no since the increased risk of injuries was too great. Backup quarterback Geno Smith said yes because the extra revenue the NFL gained ultimately trickled right down to player salaries.

4 years later, told of the exchange, Commanders left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said he understood either side and couldn’t pick one — though he knows the physical toll of “Thursday Night Football” in addition to anyone.

In November 2018, the NFL flexed a Chicago home game from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night the week before the Bears needed to play at Detroit on Thanksgiving. Leno left the sphere Sunday at about 10:30 p.m., and due to schedule change, he only had about 84 hours until the subsequent kickoff.

“That was the worst I’ve ever felt in any football game ever,” Leno said, adding, “We were sleepwalking in the primary half.”

Later, in meetings with the NFLPA, Leno said Bears players asked the league to outlaw such scheduling quirks. One hasn’t happened since.

Some players, akin to center Nick Martin, think Thursday games are definitely worth the extra pain due to physical and mental break they gain in the shape of “a mini bye week.” Rivera acknowledged the advantages of the break and plans to provide his players off from Friday to Monday.

Others, akin to safety Bobby McCain, have at all times believed the complaints about Thursdays were overblown. He said he’s within the minority but likes playing off a brief week.

“Truthfully, you’ll go right into a Thursday night game brisker than you’d a Sunday night game,” he said. “I realize it sounds crazy, but I’m just being honest.”

His explanation: In a traditional week, players get two two-day breaks from hitting (Monday and Tuesday, Friday and Saturday). But during a brief week, they don’t hit from Monday until Thursday night.

But Allen, the defensive tackle, raised his eyebrows at the reason.

“He’s a [defensive back],” Allen said. “He’s running around, getting his legs back. Me? I just got here off a game with [Tennessee running back] Derrick Henry, and I’m exhausted.”

One in every of the major points of McCain’s argument in favor of Thursday games was that there’s no such thing as a football game with a low injury risk. Players get concussions “on a regular basis,” he said, they usually accept that long before they get to the NFL.

“I hate what happened to Tua because that is my guy,” McCain, who played with Tagovailoa in Miami in 2020, said. “However it also happens. It happens to people week in and week out.”

Therein lies considered one of the tricky parts of promoting player safety in a sport with a soul as violent as football’s. Though the policies before Tagovailoa’s injury can have been insufficient and the fast turnaround might need compounded the issues, the league, teams and NFLPA can only accomplish that much.

“The player also needs to be honest and upfront,” Rivera said. “You’ll be able to’t hide anything. … That is about health and safety, and we’ve got to place it on our individual selves to be sure that those things are followed and done properly. And if not, and something happens, there’s got to be accountability.”

With ‘Thursday Night Football’ on Amazon Prime, the NFL bets on streaming

On Monday afternoon, rookie defensive tackle John Ridgeway was lying on his belly in front of his locker on the Commanders facility, scrolling his phone and chewing Copenhagen tobacco. He said he’d at all times found it odd the NFL played games on such short rest, and now that he’s within the league, it seems even weirder. The team tracks his every movement on the sphere to assist his body — after which schedules him to play on a Thursday?

In a couple of a long time, Ridgeway joked, perhaps the NFL will put player safety ahead of business. He said he thinks about head injuries, about how short the common NFL profession is and about the way it seems obvious to him teams shouldn’t play on Thursday nights. Then he shrugged.

“I just play,” he said.

Nicki Jhabvala contributed to this report.

Get the latest Sports Updates (Soccer, NBA, NFL, Hockey, Racing, etc.) and Breaking News From the United States, United Kingdom, and all around the world.

Related articles


Recent articles