The New England Patriots played their last game — a 33-7 road win over the Washington Redskins — just three days ago, and will need a quick turnaround for their next: the New York Giants are coming to town for a Thursday night game. While the Patriots have been historically good at playing on short weeks, the upcoming contest and its preparation are still a challenge for both the players and the coaching staff.
Special teams captain Matthew Slater, who is serving as the Patriots’ primary team representative at the NFL Players Association, voiced concerns about the format during a press availability session earlier this week. His message was a clear one: playing on Thursday night after just three days of rest does not comply with the NFL’s oft-mentioned focus on safety and health, no matter the age of the participating players.
“You could be 22 years old, it’s tough,” said the 34-year-old, who is set to appear in his 10th Thursday Night Football game tomorrow, when asked about his feelings on the issue. “Player safety, player health? This doesn’t fit into that as far as I’m concerned. I know we’ve had a lot of discussions about it as a union. I know it’s a good product as far as the consumers are concerned, and the fans enjoy these Thursday night products.”
“But I think when you talk about the rigors of playing in an NFL game, and then what it takes to recover and be able to do it again the following week, to do a Sunday-to-Thursday turnaround is tough. It doesn’t fit under the umbrella of player safety, as far as I’m concerned. But you guys know that, I’ve said that every year,” Slater continued when comparing the regular schedule to the sped-up he and his teammates are currently on.
“You get on a plane [after the Sunday game] and there’s dehydration, joints swelling up or what have you,” he added before pointing out that playing the in-week game at home is at least a little better than playing it on the road: “It certainly gives you a couple extra hours of rest [...] I think it’s nicer to play these games at home when you have the opportunity to do so, but I think it’s equally challenging for both teams.”
One are in which both the Patriots and the Giants experience this challenge is injuries. New England, for example, will likely be without wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who hurt his hamstring against Washington. On a regular Sunday-to-Sunday schedule, Dorsett might have been able to participate in the next game but is now expected to be declared “out” — a status that will be used for numerous rehabbing players on both teams.