The San Francisco 49ers host the Los Angeles Rams in a little over 48 hours, only four days removed from a physical Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Thursday Night Football has always been a problem for player health. Football is a physical game, and most players need the full week to get back and ready for another game. Getting only four days between games is not nearly enough time for the body to recover.
The NFL’s concerns about player health are a sham as long as TNF is around, but until that happens, the games will go on. And for the teams playing each week, there is a certain psychological element to overcoming the short turnaround.
On Monday, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked about the quick turnaround. He was specifically asked if familiarity with Rams head coach Sean McVay’s scheme helps in a short week. Shanahan responded that Thursday football is less about scheme, and more about how fresh a given roster is. He said it’s about, “who feels less sorry for themselves for how they are feeling and really goes out there and competes the hardest.”
The 49ers defense in particular faces a tough challenge, coming off a huge snap count against the Seahawks. Shanahan was asked if the coaching staff has to alter their approach this week.
“Yeah, regardless of how many plays, I mean, you have to alter your approach every Thursday. I mean, they were out there definitely more than we would like without a doubt. But, even if they were out there a normal amount of plays, if they were out there 60, nothing would have changed. We’ve got to do everything we can to get the players fresh for Thursday, and that's on all three sides of the ball. That's the exact same thing L.A. is trying to do. I've played a number of Thursday games. It's always a challenge for the players because your body is never quite ready by that time. But, the good thing about it is you get more time off after it. So, there's about three days, you know, starting here in about half an hour, we're exactly three days away from kickoff, and we've got to take advantage of every moment. We can't go too hard in practice. It's got to be a lot more assignment-based to try to get this all in. Players got to get their sleep. They’ve got to start hydrating right now and we’ve got to take advantage of every extra thing we allow them to do with massages and things like that. This game will be here before you know it, and there's no time to do anything but prepare for Thursday.”
While the players are getting their bodies ready, the coaches have a limited amount of time to prepare for the Thursday opponent. Shanahan was asked if the coaching staff had to pull an all-nighter given the expedited timeline.
“No. Last night was more about trying to go to bed knowing how big these next three days are going to be for us. So, trying to go to sleep so we can have enough energy to get through this. Came in early in the morning. You know, I'm a guy who doesn't sleep at the office, but I definitely do during this week. There's a lot to do. We've got to catch up on it. Tomorrow we'll put pretty much our entire game plan in, which normally you do that over a three-day period. We've got to find the hours somehow. That's why just, that's why we adjust. We'll definitely live up here probably the next few days, which makes those few days harder. But, just like what I said for the players, the good thing about Thursday Night Football is no matter how hard and miserable it is to prepare for it because it's so soon, it's also nice to get those three extra days to relax after it, which is very hard to come by in the NFL. The only other time you get those off-days is your one bye week.”
It is certainly valuable to get that extra time after the TNF game, and it’s good the 49ers get through this short week earlier than later in the season. The 49ers are slight underdogs in this game, but Thursday is a toss-up game as much as any other this season. It helps that the 49ers are playing the Rams, but regardless of the opponent, there would be a greater than usual punchers chance. It all comes down to how fresh the team is on Thursday.