“For the coaches who give their players time off heading into a Thursday game, those players love it because you’re not having contact and you’re not working hard on that week, and then you play the Thursday night game and then what? You’ve got a long break. So those dudes are cool. For the players who have coaches who are beating them up before the Thursday night game, they might have another problem.”
The NFL’s package of Thursday night games has been criticized by some players and other observers as being inconsistent with the sport’s stated emphasis on player health and safety.
“I’m not being coy,” Smith said. “But when somebody asks me what should happen with Thursday night games, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it because I don’t get a vote. If Thursday night games are a big issue for our reps, they’ll bring it up. If they want to vote on a resolution to do something with Thursday night games — play them, not play them, engage the league about them — that’s what we do.”
According to Smith, injury data shows the injury rate for players is higher in Sunday games following a one-week break than for Thursday games following a Sunday game.
“There is a statistical significant difference between injuries that occur on grass and injuries that occur on artificial turf,” Smith said. “And nobody’s talking about that. I mean, we’ve said that now for almost two years. I’ve heard far more about Thursday night than I’ve heard about the statistically significant difference between injuries that occur on grass and occur on artificial turf. And that, to me, is going to be a bigger — a big — issue at [the] rep meeting this year . . . If there is an increased risk for players doing exactly the same thing but in two different environments, that’s a problem.”