BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 10/16/2013

Thiel: NFL Thursdays not the players’ favorite

Truth to tell, the Seahawks, along with many other NFL players, don’t like Thursday games because of the lack of rest. But they are more equipped than most to deal with it.

DE Cliff Avril would like to meet up with Arizona QB Carson Palmer the way he introduced himself to the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick earlier this season. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest file

Protocol dictates that NFL players and employees speak no ill of the awkwardness of Thursday night games and the increase in potential for injury to bodies that four days earlier went through what is known in football argot as the weekly car crash. But since the NFL is suddenly overwhelmed with player safety concerns, the irony is too much for some.

Asked Tuesday in the VMAC locker room whether three days between games is asking a lot of players, DE Cliff Avril said, “I definitely think so. I would say a majority of guys in this locker room hate Thursday night games because of the quick turnaround to (try to)  perform at your highest level.

“You have no choice. It’s a lot more difficult.”

The sentiment was echoed down the I-5 road in San Francisco by Anquan Boldin, the 49ers receiver who doesn’t have to play this Thursday, as the Seahawks (5-1) do in Arizona (3-3). But he’s been in enough of them to know.

“There are some things that just don’t make sense to me,” Boldin told the San Jose Mercury News. “I mean, if you’re so concerned about player safety, then why do you have every team in the league playing on Thursday night, when they just competed on a Sunday, knowing how difficult it is for guys to get back to being healthy?

“Guys really don’t feel like they’re back ’til probably Thursday or Friday to prepare for that next week.”

Adding Thursday to the Sunday-Monday lineup (Saturdays, too, in the playoffs) was negotiated with the players union, the purpose being to give TV viewers another reason to subscribe to the NFL Network channel, which televises it exclusively — except for local channels in the participating cities (in Seattle, JoeTV, channel 10, will carry the game).

“It’s the league, and it’s all about money,” said Avril, shrugging and offering a wan smile. “It is what it is.”

D-line teammate O’Brien Schofield agreed.

“I think it’s a man-made, adverse situation for players,” he said. “It’s about which team can turn it around faster to be successful. On Thursday games, you see guys moving a little slow.

“Here, the coaches have done a really good job focusing on our recovery; getting our legs back and ready for this game.”

Much planning went into conserving manpower among the Seahawks for this schedule wrinkle, including rationing some playing time in Sunday’s win over Tennessee. The key position was the defensive line, where fatigue often shows more quickly for big guys who play shove-and-run all day.

It’s also the position in Thursday’s match-up that is mostly likely going to swing the game. Arizona’s quarterback is Carson Palmer, the one-time Heisman Trophy winner at USC under Pete Carroll. Now 33 and playing for his fourth team in 12 NFL seasons, Palmer has had his troubles this year, throwing for seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The picks are second-most in the league behind the 15 of the Giants’ Eli Manning.

Coach Bruce Arians, who inherited the franchise’s QB troubles in his first year, has no choice but to play the happy-to-have-him card.

“We love him,” Arians said. “He has made some mistakes and thrown some balls to the other team that he wishes he had back. But the one thing about him is that he doesn’t let it upset him. He goes on to the next series.

“Yeah, I’m really glad he’s our guy.”

So, presumably, are the Seahawks defenders, who plan to throttle the Cardinals’ offense at Palmer’s slow feet. When healthy, the Seahawks will have eight linemen largely agile and interchangeable, depending on down, distance and fatigue. The rotation worked to great success Sunday, when several were down to half-games of snaps and helped hold the Titans out of the end zone.

“When you get your D-linemen to play only half the snaps, there’s nothing better you can ask,” said Schofield, who was with the Cardinals last year. “You get 100 percent while each guy is out there. Here, there’s no talent dropoff. It will really help us Thursday.”

The unit will be dented by the likely absence of Chris Clemons, Seattle’s top pass rusher who hurt his elbow Sunday.

Avril said the rest of the group is getting closer to full health.

“I’m just now feeling better with my hamstring,” he said. “I would say I was a little slower; I don’t want to use that as an excuse, but I felt it. Mike Bennett had his back problem in Houston. Once everyone gets going and gets into it, we can do big things.

“The rotation will help us through the season. Those of us new here are used to getting the majority of snaps where we came from – 50 to 60 snaps. Here the load is decreased a little bit. That will help us on the back end of the season.”

Depth, one of the Seahawks’ chief assets, is going to be big a lot sooner than December.


  • Greg

    Art, speaking of safety, will anyone address the last PBS Frontline in ink? As a life long football fan it was devastating, I’ll not watch another game in the same way. Every hit, clean or otherwise, seems to contribute to disabling complications down the road. The Frontline piece compared the NFL to the tobacco companies in denial of affect, the lable adheared nicely, the NFL choose not to participate in the show.

    I ate a heaping bowl of hypocritical stew by watching the Dawg’s and Hawk’s respectively, I admit to being a football junky however, the outcome of my entertainment may be the future disability or death of the guys playing the game. I don’t have any answers, just more questions…

    Boldin’s remarks echo the reality, “If you’re so concerned with safety, then why Thursday Night Football”, well, that’s one answer we do know, $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$!

    • art thiel

      Greg, I watched as well, and you’re among the few to let me know that they ARE looking at the game differently. I plan to write about it because a viewer could not helped but be moved by the facts and the scenes. But is conscience enough to affect how much fans engage? Your response suggests no.

      • RadioGuy

        I didn’t watch the Frontline piece when it ran, but I’ll find it somewhere online…I don’t think you can watch an entire PBS show on their site, but maybe it’s on YouTube.

        I’m totally in the corner of retired players who sued the NFL for their later physical miseries, although I think the NFLPA should come in for some criticism as well because they’ve all but ignored what’s happened to the guys who paved the way for current players to become millionaires (that Gene Upshaw would’ve been party to that was egregious because some of these guys were his own teammates).

      • Greg

        Guilty as charged! I’m too long in the tooth, I don’t smoke however, quiting cigs is probably easier. I think the change will be at the root and that is when parents will not allow their kids to play football. If I had children, they would not recieve my approval to participate. I can also see the NFL become the league of the economical disadvantaged, the only way out is to sacrafice your body for the payday. It’s an intractable situation with no ready solution at hand. I look forward to your article!

        RadioGuy: The whole enchilada is available on the PBS App.

  • jafabian

    I’d like to see them dump TNF and the bye week. If players say they need the bye week then offer to eliminate one exhibition game but to appease the loss of revenue that owners would say would happen by getting rid of an exhibtion game add one more round in the playoffs. Overall it would still mean less players playing and therefore less injuries. But you don’t need TNF when you have MNF.

    • art thiel

      Believe it or not, owners are considering a Thursday double-header to boost the saggy ratings the NFL Network has received for the single games.

  • RadioGuy

    It makes the most sense to limit teams playing on Thursday night to those coming off a bye week, but sense means nothing if it interferes with profits. Being a politician’s son, Roger Goodell will continue to speak out of both sides of his mouth regarding player safety without actually doing anything about it that matters because (being a politician’s son) Roger can also read a profit/loss statement.

    • art thiel

      The schedule for Thursday entrants mandates 10 days until the next game, so there is a break of sorts, but that doesn’t do much for players who get injured after only three days rest.

      • RadioGuy

        The ten-day rest should come BEFORE a Thursday night game, not AFTER. Having only three days off between games is nuts. This isn’t soccer.

        • jafabian

          It’s a lose-lose, that’s why they should just dump it. The reason why ratings aren’t good for TNF is because IT’S ON THURSDAY. MNF does okay because people sometimes give themselves a three day weekend or work a flex schedule where they have Monday off anyways. I’m surprised the NFL chose Thursday and not Friday for the extra game of the week.

          • RadioGuy

            I’m not a TNF fan either and would be happy to see it go away, but the NFL would go up against high school football across the country on Fridays. Few care about prep football in Seattle, if all those rows of empty seats at Memorial Stadium you see on TV highlights are any indication, but people do care a LOT elsewhere…enough that Goodell is smart enough not to go up against it.