Will Steelers-Titans Prove Another Hot Mess? The Thursday Night NFL Argument Isn’t Going Away

Remember what happened the last time anyone entertained the idea of playing an NFL game on short rest?

It, uh, wasn’t great. The Seahawks and Cardinals scrapped out a pretty horrible contest in the Arizona desert; Russell Wilson got popped under the chin and went off for a concussion check that looked cursory at best and which the NFL is now investigating—ESPN reported on Sunday that the Seahawks did violate the NFL’s concussion protocol by letting their quarterback back onto the field to orchestrate the win without giving him a proper assessment in the locker room. Other players on both sides also went down with injuries.

Oh, and Richard Sherman snapped an achilles tendon that he said was on the verge of rupturing already, but you know, may not have ruptured had the powers that be given him more than a half-week to recover from the Seahawks’ previous game, a bruising defensive slugfest on FedEx Field turf that can be sapping at the best of times.

You can argue until the cows come home, or until Tom Brady retires, about whether Sherman’s bravery or the NFL’s general attrition rate or the CBA’s banning of two-a-day practices leading to increased susceptibility to injury or a short week or a combination of all of those led to the loss of one of the NFL’s best, and almost certainly its most charismatic, defensive player. But it’s difficult to dispute that the debate around the future of Thursday Night Football is getting hotter as we pass the midway point of the 2017 season.

Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback who could never legitimately be questioned for his toughness, said on his weekly radio show this week that playing games on Thursdays was “miserable” and “terrible.” “They need to get rid of this game, I think,” Roethlisberger said in quotes reported by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. “I’m sure everyone who’s played on Thursday night would say the same thing. You’ve got to let your body recover a bit.”

Everyone who has played on Thursday night, maybe, but not Jerry Jones who has never played an NFL game on a Thursday night. The Dallas Cowboys owner—currently engaged in a drag-out fight with his fellow owners and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell—told 105.3 The Fan that his Cowboys are fine playing on short rest. “Not one shred of statistics show that to be a disadvantage, inordinately challenging physically for the players,” Jones said in quotes reported by the Star-Telegram. “We’re the poster child of playing on Thursday and, as a result, what it does to the demand for players being rested or being healthy.”

If Sherman’s injury didn’t make the NFL take notice, then Roethlisberger’s comments probably aren’t going to have any effect either. Still, if Thursday night games aren’t facing an existential crisis yet, then it’s clear that the debate over their essential safety isn’t going away anytime fast.