One of the newer things for the NFL in 2023 is further flexibility of the Thursday Night Football broadcast. Beginning in 2023, teams can play two TNF games.
That’s right, the game nobody asked for and the game that players have stated how dangerous it is, can now have teams go through it twice a year. We call this Buy One, Get One (BOGO). And the San Francsico 49ers are one of those teams that get the BOGO treatment for TNF games. They will have Week 3 home game against the New York Giants, and then Thanksgiving (11/23) away against Seattle Seahawks.
Other teams of note are the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints. The latter team is one ironically punished for running a bounty program that paid out for hurting opponents. The NFL says player safety is of utmost importance but allowing its players only three days of rest before playing football on Thursday is not exactly the safest measure. Richard Sherman has a good writeup of a week in the life of an NFL player and describes why Thursdays are brutal. The quality of football has seen a bit of a lift over the last few years, but it doesn’t change the fact players are playing through injuries sustained the previous Sunday. The mental side also takes a toll as preparation time isn’t near as long as if the teams were preparing for a Sunday, or even coming off a Monday night game and playing Sunday on the shorter week.
The 49ers get to do this twice. Along with a handful of other teams. Keep in mind I said handful, not all. The original deal was all 32 teams had to do a TNF game at some point. Like taxes, it was just one of those things you went and got over with once a year. Most got a prime time game through the season and then a few were on Thanksgiving. Not ideal, but everyone got stuck with the gauntlet. That has changed where not all teams have to be a part of TNF at all, and a select few get the “privilege” of being featured twice.
The Atlanta Falcons for instance, have no TNF game scheduled. The Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, the two teams in the Super Bowl, only have one Thursday Night game each (The Chiefs’ Thursday Night Week 1 opener doesn’t count). For a league that prides itself on parity, that’s a head scratcher given how exhausting the limited schedule is for the teams forced to take a part in it.
And yes, The Chiefs are going to Germany, and going across the pond has its own arguments against it, but that’s nothing compared to a player nursing and discovering new bruises forced to play a game before they are recovered.
Think of it this way: If you did an intense workout on leg day, would you be back in two days later when your entire lower body is sore and you can barely walk? Well, probably not. And if you do do it there’s enough evidence that points to you eventually tearing something or worse to injure yourself.
None of this would be as eyebrow-raising if the league looked to the obvious answers which is offer teams an additional bye and then make a rule teams only play on TNF returning from a bye. It gives them a shortened bye week (which sucks) but it at least allows a longer recovery window and gives the fans potentially better football. As it is, omitting teams from this grueling schedule and forcing some teams to do it twice only forces the question how serious they are on player safety.
What do you think? Do you think the 49ers being forced to play TNF twice puts them at a completive disadvantage? Do you think it’s unfair or dangerous to be subjected to this twice while others don’t have to do it at all?
Or maybe I’m just thinking too hard about this again.