The next time Roger Goodell says anything about player safety, I want you to think about Richard Sherman lying motionless on the turf in Arizona, knowing he had suffered a torn Achilles tendon before the trainers ever got to him.
Or remember Sheldon Richardson and Frank Clark lying belly-up a few yards apart after the two Seahawks collided mid-play, Richardson’s helmet ramming Clark awkwardly in the hip.
Or you can think of any of the more than a dozen players who limped out of Thursday’s game with an injury.
“Every Thursday night game, you always see more injuries than any other game,” defensive end Michael Bennett said afterward. “Because people aren’t recovered, they tear their body parts. People aren’t ready for the games. The turnaround is too fast.”
Sheldon Richardson was even more blunt.
“It’s dangerous, you know,” Richardson said. “Guys don’t have the time to heal their bodies right. You see it on all Thursday night football so it’s not just our games.
“They’re not caring, they’re making money off of it so it doesn’t matter.”
Thursday night football doesn’t cause those injuries. Playing football did. But playing football on Thursday night leaves players more vulnerable to the injuries that are suffered, and it’s that reality – and the NFL’s refusal to acknowledge it – that is absolutely infuriating because it is so hypocritical.
This is a league that is fining players hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time for hits it deems dangerous to try and make the game safer the day after it schedules a game that every member of its work force sees as an unnecessary and enhanced risk.
There is no practical reason to play an NFL game every Thursday night.
There is only a business justification.
That’s not to trivialize its importance. A game on Thursday night is what the league used first as the wedge to get its TV network on basic cable and then as a commodity that has been sold to television networks then to Twitter and now even to Amazon.
Thursday night football has become a piece of programming real estate for the NFL, but it has come at a cost. That cost isn’t paid by Goodell or the other stuffed shirts that are nothing more than administrators whose idea about the health of the game is a balance sheet.
Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said that in criticizing the NFL’s appetite for expanding its TV footprint.
There are people who point to the league’s declining TV ratings as proof that Cuban is going to be proven right, but Thursday demonstrated pretty clearly that he missed on one crucial part of his observation. It’s not the pigs who are getting slaughtered here, it’s the players.