This isn’t football. It’s gladiators being thrown to the lions.
The 22-16 victory for the Seattle Seahawks Thursday night at Arizona didn’t feel like a victory. It felt like James Caan in Rollerblade, hoping he’s the last man standing in a barbaric contest to appease the masses and the corporate power brokers.
“This s--- is not OK. You can quote me on that,’’ said Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, who was playing with a pulled quad and limping on the sidelines during the game. “Thursday night football should be illegal. It has to change.”
Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman was the most obvious victim in a game that needed a triage doctor and an emergency room instead of a locker room.
Sherman suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, ending the season for a man who never has missed a game in his career, a player who was making his 99th consecutive start.
That means Sherman has played a lot of games hurt, like Super Bowl XLIX when he basically had one working arm and one he couldn’t bend at the elbow. But that was on two weeks rest, not four days.
Players get hurt every week in every NFL game. They play hurt every week. Trying to do so on four days rest instead of seven increases the likelihood of harm. It also means fewer starters play in the game because they can’t recover fast enough to get back on the field.
Sherman had played the previous three games on a weakened Achilles. The first game came on two weeks rest after the bye week and the next two on seven days of rest. The tendon finally gave out while trying to play on four days of rest.
Sherman said he figured the tendon would go out eventually, but the fact remains it happened when he had to play without a full week of rest.
The Seahawks lost seven players to injury during Thursday’s game, including newly acquired left tackle Duane Brown with an ankle sprain. Strong safety Kam Chancellor left the field on a cart near the end of the game.
“A lot of guys got banged up and I feel terrible about it,’’ said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “It’s a great event [playing on Thursday night], but it’s very difficult and very challenging.”
When Carroll was asked to elaborate on his feelings about Thursday games, he added: “I don’t want to pay it, so I don’t want to comment on that.”
That said plenty. It meant he didn’t want to pay a fine from the league for saying how he really feels about Thursday games.
The Cardinals also suffered numerous injuries. Three of them could be done for the year - offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (torn ACL), safety Tyvon Branch (knee) and tight end Ifeanyi Momah (broken ankle).
“It’s extremely tough,’’ said Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. “To play on Sunday and ask us to turn around and have our bodies OK on Thursday is tough. I hope the league is watching and will look at it.”
Oh, their watching all right, and they’re counting money while doing so. The NFL is all about the all-mighty dollar. Thursday games in prime time are what the TV networks want and they pay billions to have it as part of their contracts with the league.
It is naïve to think Thursday games will go away simply because the players don’t want them. But at a time when brain injury is at the forefront of the news and the NFL is trying to show more emphasis on health of the players, a game on four days rest goes against the grain.
It gives the impression of not caring. As Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said of the anthem protest, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.”
McNair later apologized, but the point was made. The players are well-paid pawns in a bigger game ruled by big money.
Alternatives are possible. If Thursday games are here to stay, have teams only play them after a bye weekend. That likely means going to an 18-week schedule instead of 17 weeks.
So be it. Do whatever it takes. How about one less meaningless preseason game that no one cares about.
This can’t wait until the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. The NFL and the team owners need to step up and have some compassion.
End the Thursday night massacre before it’s too late.