RENTON — It was angry Doug Baldwin at his angriest.
Richard Sherman had just torn his Achilles tendon and was out for the year. Kam Chancellor had just injured his neck and would never suit up again. And considering all this happened during a Thursday-night game — a 22-16 Seahawks victory over the Cardinals — Baldwin couldn’t help but vent about playing on such short rest.
Perhaps this is where I didn’t use my best judgment in sizing up the moment.
What would you say to those who enjoy the light practice week and long break after Thursday games? I asked Baldwin.
He didn’t smile.
“Tell them (expletive) you.”
I never did pass Doug’s message along to anybody, but what if my question wasn’t so ridiculous? What if, despite the prevailing narrative to the contrary, there are actually benefits to playing on Thursday night?
You’re not going to hear that from Rams running back Todd Gurley, who recently called Thursday games “the dumbest thing ever.” But Seahawks running back Chris Carson?
“I like Thursday-night games. I’m gonna be real with you,” Carson said. “I like Thursday-night games because the practices aren’t as intense — the games are hard, physically — but you get that time off afterwards. I like that time.”
There wasn’t a “Competition Wednesday” for the Seahawks during practice this week. There wasn’t really a competition anything. If you just played Sunday, and your next game is Thursday, you’re not enduring anything more than some glorified walk-throughs.
The reason, of course, is because players are still recovering from the bruisings they took in their last game, which you’d think would leave them vulnerable on Thursday nights. But according to data over the past five years, NFL injuries occur slightly less often on four days’ rest than they do on seven.
Sherman’s Achilles had been tenuous all season. That thing was gonna go. And three extra days’ rest wouldn’t have helped Chancellor’s neck in the slightest. The guys most affected by the short turnaround are the ones who can’t play Thursday but could have had they had 72 more hours to rest. That doesn’t increase their injury odds, though. That keeps them off the field, out of harm’s way.
Plus, once that game is over, players essentially have a mini bye week. No game for another 10 days. And when they do come back, they’re playing an opponent that’s had at least three fewer days rest than they have. So maybe Thursday nights aren’t so atrocious?
Well, don’t tell that to Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, who said he’d like to see a change. He suggested that every team have a bye week before their Thursday games, but I’m not sure that’s feasible — especially with teams taking their byes after trips to London.
Don’t tell that to Seattle left tackle Duane Brown, either. He said if he were negotiating the next collective-bargaining agreement, he’d eliminate the Thursday-night contests.
What if that cost you a few hundred grand a year? I asked.
“My body would thank me,” he said.
I believe he believes that, but I doubt he speaks for all of his peers. Fox, after all, agreed to pay $550 million per year to broadcast 11 annual Thursday-night games, which works out to $50 million per game. That’s up from the $45 million per game CBS and NBC paid from 2016-17, which was up from $37.5 million for the two years before that. Considering 47 percent of the league revenue goes to the players, do you think they’d really want to give up that stream?
Maybe, but probably not.
I’m not going to pretend to know what it feels like to wake up Monday morning after playing an NFL game. I’m not going to pretend to know what it feels like to have to get back on the field four days later, either. Only those who experience that level of carnage can truly understand it.
But I also wonder if Thursday-night games are like an extreme workout that you dread all week. You hate having to do it, but you’re glad that you did.
NOTE: This story has been corrected to reflect that Richard Sherman’s Achilles’ tendon injury occurred in a 22-16 victory over the Cardinals in 2017, not during a 6-6 tie with the Cardinals in 2016 as originally reported.