If the NFL is really concerned about player safety, it needs to do away with Thursday Night Football.
It's not, so it won't after the league's current collective bargaining agreement ends in 2020, but the right thing to do is get rid of the Thursday night experiment that is clearly not smart. Football is unlike any other game in American sports. What other sport do you not actually practice it during the week because it is too dangerous?
NFL teams don't typically practice live tackling during the week. Too many chances for injury by simply tackling players to the ground, half-speed or full-speed. Colleges now prefer the "thud" practice, where defenders square up ballcarriers in full pads and make contact, but at limited speed. Players in thud practices are not taken to the ground.
SIU, which had to play 11 straight weeks this year because of a scheduling blip, practiced tackling more with dummies than actual players during training camp. The Salukis, like a lot of teams, used their weekend scrimmages to best judge their talent in live situations.
Seattle's Thursday night game against Arizona was not incredibly debilitating — 10 or 15 players typically get banged up and leave the field in an NFL game — but players are undoubtedly more susceptible to injuries competing for the second time in four days. A former Saluki who played in the NFL once told me it takes the whole week to recover from a typical game.
You're sore on Monday if you play on Sunday. You're sore on Tuesday. Wednesday, you begin to feel a bit better, he said. Thursday and Friday you feel a bit better than that, but the bruises you may have sustained Sunday are still there. Saturday is typically a travel day.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has played in a number of Thursday night games, said what a lot of players say.
"It's miserable, it's terrible, they need to get rid of this game, I think," he told 93.7 FM The Fan in Pittsburgh on Monday. "Just play on Monday and Sundays. It's so tough on guys, you're beat up, you're banged up. It's a very violent, physical game we play."
One of my favorite parts of opening weekend of the NFL season is the Monday Night Football doubleheader. When the collective bargaining agreement ends in about three years, the league should consider bringing that back every Monday night.
It's one of the least competitive TV nights in prime time on the networks, and the NFL could easily find a reasonable matchup on the East Coast in the first game and on the West Coast in the nightcap. Hell, they could even stick with the Color Rush uniforms that burn out your eyeballs when you're trying to watch a Thursday night game.
Turn Thursday Night Football into a Monday Night Football doubleheader and give players a fighting chance to get through another week.
* "Whistles and Wedding Rings" devoted to coaches and their spouses: Roger Lipe, SIU's team chaplain, has a new book out devoted to helping coaches and their spouses through the unique challenges of their relationships.
"Whistles and Wedding Rings: Devotions for Coaches and Spouses" has 50 devotional thoughts to help the two win at home. The 106-page book is Lipe's fifth sports devotional and is available in paperback or in Kindle for $12.99 on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and through Cross Training Publishing at crosstrainingpublishing.com.
Fans that order 10 copies can drop the price to $8 apiece through Cross Training Publishing.