Welcome to Tuesdays with Richard on Thursdays, a weekly series featuring Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. Throughout the 2016 season, Richard will provide a unique glance at his life behind-the-scenes and on the field. This week, with the Seahawks playing on Thursday night, Richard bumped his piece up to Wednesday.
O.K., maybe it wasn’t the most eloquent way to describe it, but I call it like I see it. I mean, you gotta call a spade a spade.
The whole idea of Thursday Night Football is terrible. It’s ludicrous. It’s hypocritical.
It’s a poopfest.
But allow me to elaborate….
The NFL preaches player safety. The league says it wants to do everything in its power to protect its players. But when it comes down to it, it’s not the players that the NFL protects.
It’s the Shield.
Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports
Let me take you through a typical week in the life of an NFL player.
Game day. This is what you live for. You go out on the field and you fight, battle and bleed. On a good day, you win. But no matter what, your body takes a beating. So you go home and ice up.
You feel like crap. Your ankles hurt, your back hurts — it’s different for everybody, but something always hurts. Some days, the pain is so bad that you can’t even get out of bed. But you have to, because you have to get to the facility to watch film. The coaches will run you a little to break up the lactic acid that has built up in your muscles. Maybe you’ll get a lift in. Toward the end of the season, you’ll probably add an MRI to your routine to check on the various injuries you’ve been playing through — just to be safe.
Off day. This is when you’ll hit the cold tub and the hot tub and get a swim in — something low impact, just to get your body moving again. You’ll have to break up some of the scar tissue that has built up since Sunday, too. A massage usually does the trick.
Your body still hasn’t completely healed from Sunday’s game, but you have to put it back to work. You’re in shoulder pads and helmets, banging, even though you’re probably still discovering bruises from Sunday that you didn’t know you had.
You get to take the pads off, and practice is a little bit lighter. You’re running and practicing, and the soreness is starting to wane. But your body still isn’t ready to go through the trauma of playing another football game.
Another light day. Now, you’re starting to get right. You feel the juice coming back a little bit. There are also fewer meetings, so you get more time to recover, lift and flex your body a bit more.
Now you should be hitting on all cylinders. You’re ready to go. If you had to play a game today, you’d be ready. If you’re battling a serious injury — or something that’s lingering, like turf toe or a sore hamstring — maybe you’re still not 100%. But once the season begins, nobody in this league is 100%. We’re all playing hurt. You just gotta suck it up.
Now let’s look at what a week is like when you have to play a game on a Thursday after playing on a Sunday….
Game day. This is what you live for.
You feel like crap, but you still go to work.
“Wait … Where did my off day go?” The NFL took it. Tuesday becomes Wednesday. That means you’re in shoulder pads and helmets. If you want to soak in the cold tub or the hot tub, or to get some of the scar tissue worked out, better get it in on Monday — or squeeze it into an already full day on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Light practice, but you’re still discovering new bruises from Sunday’s game.
Game day. This is what you live for. But this time, your body isn’t ready. You’re still sore from Sunday’s game. You’re going to go out there and compete and give everything you have, because that’s what you do. But your body just won’t have as much to give as it would have had on a full week’s rest.
That’s why the quality of play has been so poor on Thursday nights this season. We’ve seen blowouts, sloppy play and games that have been almost unwatchable — and it’s not the players’ faults. Their bodies just aren’t ready to play. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Cowboys-Vikings game a couple of weeks ago was the best TNF game we’ve seen this season. You know why?
Because they both played on Thanksgiving the week before, so they each had a full week off.
Thursday Night Football is just another example of the NFL’s hypocrisy: The league will continue a practice that diminishes the on-field product and endangers its players, but as long as the dollars keep rolling in, it couldn’t care less.
Like I’ve said before, the NFL is a bottom-line business. As long as fans are tuning in and advertisers are paying to be featured on Thursday Night Football, it’s not going anywhere. So I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe the league should take away one preseason game and add a second bye week for each team, which would occur before its Thursday game. That way, at least teams would have a full week to recover and prepare. (Or we could get rid of the preseason altogether … but that’s another issue for another day.)
I guess this is what happens when you have people in suits who have never played the game at this level dictating the schedule. I’d like to put Roger Goodell in pads for a late game on a Sunday, in December, in Green Bay, on the frozen tundra — then see what time he gets to the office on Monday morning, knowing that he would have to suit up again on Thursday.
Then maybe he’d understand….
And it’s funny … you know those TNF commercials the NFL has been running? The Anything Can Happen commercials highlighting all the great historical things that have occurred on a Thursday?
Well, you know what else happened on a Thursday?
J.J. Watt’s season ended.
He reinjured his back and had to have surgery, and he was put on IR.
Now, I don’t know what the extent of J.J.’s injury was at the time, but I know he had missed the entire preseason with a bad back, and that he was fighting it the first couple of weeks of the season. Then, in Week 3, the Texans were on a short week, playing on Thursday Night Football, and he injured his back again.
One of the NFL’s biggest stars, out for the year.
On a Thursday.
I don’t know if J.J. reinjuring his back is linked to the short week in any way. Maybe it was a ticking time bomb and he would have hurt it anyway had Houston played a Sunday game that week. Nobody knows.
But it makes you think….
The last thing I’ll say is this: I hope you don’t think I’m complaining. All of this — the Mondays where you feel like crap, the MRIs, Thursday Night Football — comes with the territory. This game has given me the ability to live my dreams. We all know what we signed up for, and despite all the negatives, this game has allowed me to take care of my family in ways I never thought possible and to give more back to my community than I could have ever dreamed. I’m grateful for everything football has given to me. I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in, and I understand the risks. We all do.
I just don’t understand why the NFL says it’s taking a stand on player safety, then increases the risks its players face by making them play on Thursday, before their bodies are ready.
My Seahawks teammates and I are playing in one of the last Thursday night games of the season this week, so we’re one of the last teams to be exploited in 2016. One of the last to be taken advantage of. One of the last to get the middle finger from the NFL.
But as long as the NFL is using that same finger to count Thursday Night Football dollars, I don’t think it really cares.