Chris Cullum

A couple of Thursdays ago, I watched the Bears dominate the Dolphins and their third-string quarterback Tyler Thigpen. The Thursday before, I watched Roddy White tear up Baltimore’s secondary to give the Falcons a win. Actually, let me rephrase those thoughts: I tried to watch those two games. I mean it, I really did. However, after trying to stomach these two atrocities, I was left with two words.

Never again.

Never again will I watch a Thursday night NFL game.

Never again should NFL games even be played on Thursday nights.

OK, maybe that was a little harsh. But, please, did you see the highlights from the Bears/Dolphins game? Aside from the Bears’ defense, the only kind words I heard about the game were from Trent Dilfer. He said we got to see “more of the good Jay Cutler than the bad Jay Cutler.” Wait a second … 16 of 25 for 156 yards with an interception and a fumble is the good Jay Cutler? No, I’ve watched the good Jay Cutler, and that was far from it. How about the Ravens vs. Falcons game? Take away the fourth quarter, and it was as much of a stinker as the game succeeding it. If two Super Bowl quality teams can’t face-off in a well-played football game, it’s not just a coincidental.

The only positive thing to salvage from these games is that, outside of the two teams’ markets, not a lot of people can watch the games. The NFL, in its infinite wisdom, sold the rights to air Thursday Night Football to the NFL Network, which features much fewer subscribers than, say, ESPN. The problem is twofold, however, in that cable providers don’t always carry the games. Even if you happen to have the NFL Network (which is approximately 45 million people), there’s a pretty decent chance you still can’t watch the game. Not only are fans subjected to a terrible Thursday night game each week in the second half of the season, but there’s a really good chance they can’t even watch it. Let me know when this starts to make sense.

Of course, this wouldn’t be an NFL discussion if the players’ health wasn’t involved. By playing on Thursday night, these guys get only three days to actually rest their bodies, four if you include game day. Is it any wonder why the games have been so terrible? Each team is trotting out players whose bodies are still recovering from their last game, which, whether they’re injured or not, can be just as harmful. Jake Long, the left tackle for the Dolphins and one of the best in the league at his position, was eaten alive by Julius Peppers Thursday. If you saw any of the highlights, you may have noticed Long wearing a big, black brace on his shoulder, which he had dislocated against Tennessee the previous game. Now there are whispers around the league blogosphere that his season is over. If the Dolphins had played their game Sunday would Long have further injured his shoulder the way he did against Chicago? It’s tough to say, but obviously a few extra days of rest couldn’t have hurt; if not to rest up his shoulder, then to realize playing with the injury wouldn’t have been a good idea. Sure, he could have sat out the game, but before their loss the Dolphins were still hanging tough in the loaded AFC. They had to play Long to give themselves a fighting chance against the stifling Chicago defense. At least, that’s the way it appeared at the time. Maybe a Sunday game would have been enough time to make an informed decision on whether or not to play the stud left tackle. It was an unfortunate situation the Dolphins found themselves in, one that easily could have been avoided had the game been played on a Sunday.

As we’re commonly reminded, however, the NFL is a business, and as long as the NFL Network provides the NFL best business opportunity, Thursday Night Football won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. In the mean time, cross your fingers your team won’t be playing a Thursday night game, lest you be faced with the fact that not only will they not leave the game healthy, but you won’t even be able to watch it happen.