NFL players don't like the idea of Thursday football because of concerns of their health being at risk during a shorter week, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III told the Hollywood Reporter.
"There are a lot of players out there who feel like there are not enough days in the week for us to be playing on Thursdays," Griffin said. "It's something the NFL is going to have to address to make sure they're keeping their players safe while also trying to maximize their revenue."
Griffin and the Redskins have one game on a Thursday this season — Week 4 vs. the New York Giants. (They also have two Monday night games and a rare Saturday game in Week 16.)
Last season was a nightmare for Griffin, coming off a torn ACL in which he rushed back to play but perhaps returned too soon and struggled out of the gate.
Griffin also has seen first-hand how dangerous Thursday games can be. Last season, Griffin and the Redskins lost on a Thursday to the Minnesota Vikings, who lost their starting QB — Christian Ponder — to a shoulder injury mid-game, and after playing some of his best football of the season in that game, he never regained that form again and now appears to be the forgotten third option there.
Two years ago, in Griffin's rookie season, he watched a virtual body-bag game unfold on Thanksgiving in Dallas when Cowboys players Miles Austin, Orlando Scandrick and Bruce Carter as well as the Redskins' London Fletcher and Josh Wilson all went down with injuries. Fletcher, one of the true iron men in NFL history, almost didn't play in that game in the first place because of the short week and the hamstring injury he carried into it. In the Dallas game, he suffered an ankle injury.
Griffin brings up an interesting debate here. Should there be Thursday games in the NFL?
On the one hand, you can see why the NFL wants them. It brings in big TV revenue. CBS has the rights to eight games on Thursday this season, splitting broadcasting rights with the NFL Network, and it reportedly was a serious network bidding war for that valuable programming real estate. Even if the games are bad matchups in some cases, the NFL remains the ratings kings.
And the players also must look at the big picture: More money in the till means a higher salary cap, and with the CBA requiring a team-minimum spending floor over the next few seasons that means higher player salaries.
But at what cost?
Even though Griffin is not alone in his dislike of the short-week games, the NFL has shown data that suggests there is no correlation between injuries suffered in recent Thursday games vs. those played on Sundays or Mondays. There's also the fact that Thursday games almost always mean that the teams playing in them get a mini-bye week of sorts prior to the following game.
Still, we don't have complete numbers on this. Some unreported injuries don't get factored into this NFL statistic — i.e. players who are hurt but play through the pain with their compromised bodies with shorter rest periods. When players are not in top form, the fact of the matter is that their bodies are at a higher risk for further injuries, either exacerbating the ones they already have or other body parts being vulnerable. And yes, that includes the much-dreaded concussion.
Thursday football is here to stay, at least until the next round of CBA negotiations as we get closer to 2020. And even then, it would be hard to imagine the NFL letting go of that major revenue stream without a fight. We don't know who the NFLPA leadership will be at that point, but if they truly wanted this game gone it might require the union to put all its eggs in that single basket at the risk of other aspects of the game to negotiate.
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