“Poopfest.” That’s a word that might be tossed around on a playground, from one freckle-faced kid to another. Or perhaps it’s an adjective that a group of middle schoolers would use to describe a boring science class. It’s certainly not a word one would expect to hear from an NFL cornerback. But that’s exactly the adjective that Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman used to describe Thursday Night Football games in the NFL.
It’s been a weird year for football. Amongst the National Anthem protests and politics surrounding Ezekiel Elliott’s long-winded suspension, big things are also happening on the sports medicine front. Players are dropping like flies. And it’s not just concerned fans noticing. Last December, Sherman wrote a story for the Players’ Tribune entitled “Why I Hate Thursday Night Football,” explaining that the NFL does not give players enough time to recuperate from games played just four days earlier. Now, a year later, Sherman suffered a season-ending injury at a Thursday night game. Should Sherman’s injury signal a need to outlaw Thursday Night Football? Absolutely. Players do not have enough time to recuperate, and it’s time for the NFL to prioritize player safety over maximizing profits.
There’s no denying that the NFL touts player safety, stating that its priority is the safety of the players. But there’s a big difference between touting player safety and actually executing practices to ensure player safety. Sherman writes, “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.”
Sherman is not the only player who feels Thursday Night Football should be eliminated. And he and I aren’t the only individuals that feel this way. Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin hurt his groin pregame in the Thursday-after-Sunday game because he was not ready physically to play, but did. “This s— should be illegal,” said Baldwin to The Tacoma News Tribune. Teammate and linebacker Bobby Wagner also backed him in saying “this is not OK…. Absolutely, guys do not have enough time to recover. You can’t recover in four days.” Following the game, coach Pete Carroll was asked his opinion on whether the NFL should end Thursday games. “I don’t want to pay anything so I’m not going to comment about that,” Carroll said, but he followed that comment with “I hope you recognize how difficult this is for NFL players, physically.” He was not talking about the physicality of the sport, he was talking about Thursday games. And I couldn’t agree more.
Days after Sherman’s injury, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger also voiced his concerns with Thursday games. During a call with radio station 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger said “it’s terrible. They need to get rid of this game, I think. Just play Mondays and Sundays. It’s so tough on guys.” Echoing the sentiments of Sherman and many others, Roethlisberger said “you’ve got to let your body recover a little bit. Even a week you’re still not full recovered Sunday to Sunday. You’re still dealing with bumps and bruises and things continue to build up throughout the season…It’s a tough thing to do but we’ve got to do what the league says.”
It is not a small fraction of players plagued by injury this season. NFL insider Adam Schefter tweeted out an alarming list of injured players. Richard Sherman is in good company among players Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Odell Beckham Jr., and those are just to name a few. These players are not only crucial to the league, but crucial to NFL viewership. I’ll be the first to admit that since Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone injury, I’ve been much less invested in watching the Packers play each weekend. There’s something about the star player’s absence that makes the game a lot less exciting. If the league’s most marketable players are absent, shouldn’t that signify a need for the NFL to reexamine the policy of the short weeks?
To be sure, there’s no way to know whether Sherman’s injury would have happened whether it was a Thursday or Sunday game. But judging from the plethora of other Thursday game injuries, it is evident that the lack of recovery time played a major part. It can also be argued that eliminating Thursday Night Football would result in poor viewership and affected reviews. However, with so many key players and fan favorites already absent from the program, viewership is already negatively impacted. My viewership has definitely decreased thanks to the growing injury list.
Many players have proposed the idea of completely eliminating Thursday Night Football, and some have suggested making it “illegal.” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner proposed the NFL change the format of Thursday night games. Wagner called on the NFL to give the two teams involved in the Thursday schedule a bye week in the run-up week. Another way to eliminate Thursday games could be to take away one preseason game and add a second bye week for each team, occurring before its Thursday game. This way, teams would have the appropriate length to recuperate. Any of these would be a solution, especially given the predicted amount of avoided injuries and ability to maintain viewership on other weeks.
Sherman’s injury, along with outpouring input from fellow players, should be a catalyst for an elimination of Thursday Night Football. Four days is simply not enough time to fully recover. The NFL consistently advocates their prioritizing of player safety. But it’s time to, quite literally, put their money where their mouth is. Thursday Night Football should be eliminated to protect the NFL from itself.