As if playing the NFC West’s two best teams in consecutive weeks wasn’t enough of a challenge, NFL schedule-makers decided to throw another wrinkle the Arizona Cardinals’ way — facing the Seattle Seahawks just four days after taking on the San Francisco 49ers on the road.
The Cardinals will take on Seattle at 5:25 p.m. Thursday at University of Phoenix stadium on the NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football,
To combat the minimal practice time that comes with a shortened week, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians told Arizona Sports 620’s Bickley and Marotta the team will practice almost entirely at walkthrough speed, hoping to get the players mental reps while they recover physically.
“I’ve never been a fan of Thursday football,” Arians said. “It’s very hard on these guys’ bodies to recover. There’s no way you can practice on Monday after a Sunday game, and Tuesday is our normal day off. Those are two days we have to practice to get ready for Thursday.
“It’s all walkthrough. It’s all mental. It’s a mental week. We’ll go out in shorts and make sure we’re physically ready to play … it’s up to the players to get mentally ready.”
The Cardinals have lost each of their two Thursday Night Football appearances since the NFL started scheduling Thursday games in 2006, falling 48-20 in Philadelphia on Thanksgiving 2008 and 14-3 in St. Louis in week 5 last season.
“You’ve got to study a lot more because the practices aren’t going to be as physical as they usually are,” Arizona safety Yeremiah Bell said. “We’re all professionals. At this point, you’ve definitely got to know how to take care of your body.”
But while the short week forces teams to focus more on mental preparation with minimal physical reps — something NFL players aren’t always accustomed to — Cardinals’ center Lyle Sendlein said there’s also a few benefits to playing on Thursday.
“It has some pluses to it as well … we get some more time to rest going into our next game,” Sendlein said. “You go into the season knowing you’re going to have one, and you hope it’s earlier rather than later.
Sendlein added that the lure of playing a nationally televised game in primetime helps lighten the challenge of preparing for an NFL game in just three days.
“All your friends and family in other states can watch … it’s the only game that’s on,” Sendlein said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s one of the reasons you play the game.”