November 16th, the Thursday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals was riddled with injuries. Players appeared to drop like flies, as the Seahawks alone had 8 players injured.
Thursday Night games have been a subject of controversy since their introduction in 2006, as players continue to voice concern about playing two football games in the span of five days. Two weeks ago, Richie Incognito drew criticism after expressing his views on the Thursday games. After a blowout loss to the New York Jets, he is quoted saying, “As physical as this game is, as much work and preparation that goes into this, to force us to play games on four-day weeks, it’s completely unfair…” Some said he was making excuses after a demoralizing loss, but Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks voiced a similar opinion after his teams close win over the Cardinals. After playing through a groin injury on a short week, Baldwin added to the strife by saying, “This sh*t should be illegal. It is not OK. It’s not OK. You can quote me on that.”
In addition to Thursday Night Football, the NFL’s London Series has received criticism from players. The Rams traveled to London’s Twickenham Stadium in October for a tilt against the Arizona Cardinals. The Ram’s star running back, Todd Gurley, spoke on the nature of these games saying, “It’s terrible, they need to stop all of this.” Similar to complaints about TNF, Gurley says the games are “just more of the long week, messes up a bunch of people’s schedules.” Despite player complaints, the NFL’s international series has continued to expand, with plans to add more games in the coming years.
Last year marked the first game held in Mexico, as the Raiders and Texans clashed in Mexico City. The game sold out almost immediately and generated nearly $45 million for the NFL. The game was held in Azteca Stadium. With an elevation of 7,200 ft and pollution from the nearby city, the stadium’s conditions are among the worst in the NFL. Due to difficult traveling schedules and poor stadium conditions, the NFL International Series has brought up serious issues about player safety. Nevertheless, the Patriots will still traveled to Mexico City to play the Raiders week 11.
If players despise these games so much, then why would the NFL have them? The simple answer is money. Richard Sherman who voiced his ire with the Thursday games last season, in his 2016 article in the Player’s Tribune wrote, “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.” Sherman instead believes the NFL is trying to protect their wallets. He suffered a season ending Achilles injury November 16th on Thursday Night Football. The NFL receives nearly $900 million from TV deals centered around these games, making these games one of the biggest money makers for the league. With Thursday night football remaining one of the NFL’s biggest money makers it’s hard to see it going away anytime soon. Players and owners will remain at odds on the issues of TNF, international games, and player safety, until the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2020.