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Thursday Night Football – Players hate it, the NFL loves it

Mike Tirico: “And the pass complete to John Brown. Richard Sherman is shaken up for Seattle”

Chris Collinsworth: “Sherman had some concerns about his achilles coming into this game”

X-rays later show that Sherman tore his achilles and is out for the season


After the Seattle Seahawks 22-16 Pyrrhic victory over the Arizona Cardinals, many fans were left disappointed as yet more injuries robbed them of a fully-loaded NFC West show down. Injuries in the NFL are bound to happen – apart from boxing, professional football is one of the most violent games where players routinely put their bodies on the line in order to move a pigskin up and down a field. The game is extremely exciting, exhilarating and the NFL’s position as the most watched sport in the United States reflects this. However, we now live in the ‘concussion’ age where parents are scared to let their children play football, every year a star player retires during their prime due to injury concerns and the league is enforcing more and more rule changes to protect the safety of its star athletes.

While rule changes have gone a long way and we no longer see the head-shot, targeting plays of the early 00’s and 20th century – the league still has one major dilemma to face – Thursday Night Football. Playing football on a Thursday night is a HUGE and lucrative market for the NFL since launching TNF in 2006. In 2015 the arms race began as Twitter won the right to stream TNF games for an estimated $10m. This was further escalated as Amazon bid c.$50m to stream the 10 games in the 2017 season on their platform. With TNF providing a new lucrative source of money for the league, many players have notably questioned whether this apparent cash grab feeds into the league’s wider message of protecting its players.



Soon the League will have a huge dilemma to face as a potentially lucrative source of income which puts the national spotlight on the league (what else happens on a Thursday?!) could very well put them head-to-head with the stars who make the sport entertaining. The next collective bargaining agreement with the players is not until 2020 but I believe TNF will be one of the largest player grievances. The NFL will likely have to address this in order to avoid a similar lock-out scenario that we have seen in the NFL and other US sports leagues in the past decade. This season players around the league have been particularly vocal about their dislike of playing games on a Thursday.



Injuries are always going to happen in football – it is the nature of the beast. This year particularly we have seen how brutal and demanding an NFL schedule can be as fans have been deprived of stars like Aaron Rodgers, JJ Watt, Odell Beckham, Deshaun Watson, David Johnson and Joe Thomas. But while players normally have 6 days to “recover” (this doesn’t include factoring in practice during the week), TNF poses the daunting task of having only three days to recover after playing on Sunday. For half the players this also requires them to travel across the United States while practicing on the Monday immediately after playing on a Sunday, further limiting time to recover.

While I am a huge NFL fan with TNF making my commute on Friday bearable as I’m able to watch Gamepass’ 40min condensed game, sooner or later the long-term future of the NFL will come into question if injuries continue to pile up. The NFL countered the point raised about player safety with a report in January 2015 stating that an average of 4.8 injuries were sustained during Thursday games compared to 6.9 injuries per game on Sundays and Mondays.

The NFL is facing challenging times with some viewer in the United States upset and questioning player conduct over not standing for the national anthem. Players now now questioning having to play on a Thursday night may add further fuel to the fire. While I am a fan of the sport and wish to see the NFL do all it can to help protect today’s stars, others may not form the same opinion and instead see this as further examples of today’s ‘prima donnas’ who grace the gridiron. Last nights NFC West match up saw SEVEN Seattle Seahawks leave the game injured with star CB Richard Sherman tearing his achilles – was 3 days rest enough time for a previous injury to heal itself? The Arizona Cardinals also sustained injuries of their own, losing starting LT D.J. Humphries.

This debate will likely continue throughout the season and long into the off season. While it seems at odds with the NFL’s wider effort to avoid putting players in harms way, TNF has proved itself to be an exciting and lucrative addition to the league’s schedule. Should the NFL scrap Thursday Night Football? Let us know on Twitter, @TheInsideZone.


Follow Tom Like on Twitter, @TomLikeNFL.



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