Playing The Thanksgiving Game
Over the nine years I was with the Packers, we played in three Thanksgiving day games, all in Detroit, including one last season. No matter their record -- and it couldn't be any worse that it is right now -- the Lions always played with great emotion and energy for this game. It was, in essence, their Super Bowl, their day on the calendar with their game being the only one on at the time. They played hard and it was truly one of those games where the cliche' "the record doesn't matter" turned out to be the case.
Playing an away game four days following a game presented some competitive challenges. We would only have one practice -- on Tuesday -- as Monday would be game-planning and meetings and Wednesday would only involve a walk-through before departing for the game in the early afternoon. The injury situation would be compressed, as decisions about game availability for players that would normally be made on Friday or Saturday would now have to be made on Tuesday or Wednesday, often without the benefit of seeing them practice. Competitively, Detroit obviously had a slight advantage as they were able to have more of a normal day on Wednesday without travel. As with anything, though, complaining about the short week did no good for anyone.
Actually, the Thanksgiving game presented an attractive break in the schedule at a time when teams need one. With the short flight from Detroit and the early game-time (11:30am Central time), we were able to get back to our homes for a reasonably-timed Thanksgiving dinner. Moreover, it gave the players -- and the coaches -- a true weekend without football, a kind of mini-bye week to prepare for the grind of December football (it certainly did not hurt last year in our run up to the NFC Championship game). In that sense, playing in Detroit three of the last nine years was a blessing.
Speaking of blessings, let us all count ours. From all of us here at the National Football Post, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.