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A Former Player's Perspective on Thursday Night Football

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 09:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass against the Tennessee Titans during the game on October 9, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Ryan RiddleCorrespondent IOctober 11, 2012

Some people have been critical of the NFL’s decision to implement 13 prime-time Thursday night games this season for the first time. So what are the pros and cons of making Thursday Night Football a regular weekly event?

Also, who stands to gain and what sacrifices need to be considered in this highly calculated move by one of the biggest businesses in the country?

 

The League

From the league’s perspective, the strategy provides an opportunity for every team to have at least one prime-time game this season for the first time in the history of the NFL. In addition, it allows for the league to maximize advertising revenue generated from the coveted time slot.

This makes a lot of financial sense an eases the crowdedness of the Sunday football schedule a bit.

 

The Fans

I struggle to find many angles by which NFL fans could have a reason to not enjoy or appreciate Thursday Night Football other than trivial concerns like setting up a starting lineup for your fantasy football league.

Some football purists may feel NFL games on Thursday nights are deviating from the traditional experience of Sunday football action. Others may be concerned for the health of their favorite players, but we can get into that later.

On the bright side of things, football on Thursday nights provides fans with the ability to watch teams from around the nation.

This is a wonderful opportunity for fans whose favorite team may be located on the other side of the country where they rarely have access to regional broadcasts. With football on Thursdays, this problem is made a little less unbearable.

 

The Coaches

Coaches may not like the idea of having their preparation time shortened, but there really shouldn’t be a disadvantage in that area considering both teams are given the same amount of time to prepare.

When using the inverse logic of added prep time being a benefit, teams who play on Thursday night should actually have a strategic advantage the following week, considering the three extra days to prepare for an opponent who played their game on a Sunday, even though team records following Wednesday and Thursday games are only 3-5 this year.

It isn’t a big stretch to compare coming off these mid-week games to a bye week considering the extra time to prepare for a team.

But over the last 10 years, the league average win percentage of teams coming off of a bye week is only 54 percent. What's more surprising is in 2011, the win percentage bottomed out at a puzzling 25 percent.

Statistics aside, this extra time should also aid in player recovery leading up to the next game following a Thursday night matchup.

So, from a perception standpoint, it would appear coaches should have nothing substantial to complain about in regard to a shortened prep schedule.

The big concern for coaches in handling the condensed week should come in scenarios in which they just fought a tough physical battle and may need a full week to recover from all the nicks and bruises.

 

The Players

We have heard a few players voice concerns about safety risks in response to these mid-week games considering the lack of recovery time. There does seem to be some validity with this issue, mainly because of the well-documented stance the NFL has taken in regards to player safety.

But we shouldn’t put too much weight in declaring hypocrisy on the league’s stance in regard to this particular angle just yet. The rationale of players being more susceptible to serious injury as a result of a quick turnaround seems to be too much of a stretch.

Based off the experiences I’ve had in a football season as well as being around professional athletes for years, I'm guessing that if you polled NFL players on their thoughts about playing Thursday night games, most would speak favorably about the idea.

Playing on a Thursday has some big hidden advantages for players.

Perhaps the worst part of an NFL season is suiting up and having to bang into your teammates all week long in practice. As a result, almost every player enjoys a quick turnaround from one game to the next because game days are what we live for.

Besides, a shortened week of practice also means light, low-contact practices comprised of walk-throughs, and an overall mental focus with the intent to save our banged-up bodies from going into a Thursday game worn out and sluggish.

 

Conclusion

So who stands to lose the most from the new schedule?

The biggest losers of Thursday Night Football are the wives of football fans across the nation who now have to sacrifice yet another day of television, as well as their husbands' attention, while they watch endless hours of action and postgame analysis.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a coalition of angry wives sued the NFL for destroying their families. Or maybe this is just the conclusion at my house.

All kidding aside, it’s a struggle to see anything detrimentally wrong with having regular Thursday night games from any perspective.

There may be a few minor annoyances...but as a whole, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

From my own personal perspective as both a fan and former player, I look forward to my developing Thursday night ritual as I sit in front of a hot, freshly made pizza, beer in hand, and a big-screen TV featuring a game under the lights, as the best in the business go toe to toe.

 

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