TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals beat the St. Louis Rams Sunday in a game head coach Bruce Arians called “a great team win.”
Whether it was a great win or not, though, at this point in the season Arians has made it so that victories are followed by an extra day off. It’s known as “Victory Monday,” and it pairs nicely with the already scheduled Tuesday break.
Yet, Monday afternoon at the team’s Tempe training facility, not even a full day after the clock reached 0:00 in their 27-3 win over the Rams, the Cardinals were back on the practice field preparing for their next game, which is Thursday night at home against the Minnesota Vikings.
A normal week, this is not.
“It’s totally walkthroughs,” Arians said of the team’s approach to this week. “No general about it. It’s been less than 24 hours since we played a game. We had our walkthrough. We’ll have a practice walkthrough. We may break a sweat on Wednesday, but that’s the day before the game and we’ll just see how it goes until then.
“Right now, it’s all about physically getting back, and also mentally, the grind of starting a game plan, this soon after a game is really tough on the players sometimes, so it’s both mentally and physically a grind right now for the next 48 hours.”
The physical aspect of needing to get ready for a game so quickly is obvious. Though the Cardinals won their previous game convincingly, they were still on the field for a full 60 minutes of football on the road against an NFC West rival, and there is a certain amount of time a player’s body needs to recover — enough, anyway — and sustain that kind of punishment again.
Arians noted how the Thursday night game is hard on the players’ bodies, and pointed out that while the statistics may say football on that night does not lead to an increase in injuries, its impact can be seen in what happens on the field.
“How many players don’t play on Thursday that could play on Sunday,” he asked. “I think that sometimes it hurts the quality of the game.”
That remains to be seen, at least as far as this Thursday is concerned, but for now all the Cardinals can do as they get ready for the Vikings is adjust the best they can and hope it’s enough.
“It’s extremely tough; I mean, you’re taking a game that’s normally seven days away and now we’re moving it to only four days,” Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson said. “It’s a quick turnaround — you’re missing out on three days of recovery, mental preparation. It throws off your routine schedules.”
Johnson said he is like many athletes in that there is a preference for a set schedule that can be adhered to throughout the season, adding that it really does not matter because he and his teammates must find a way to get all their preparation done in a short amount of time.
To be fair, the Vikings are in the same boat in dealing with an abnormal week of preparation ahead of a big game in terms of the NFC Playoff picture. And no one is immune from the mid-week kickoff, as every one of the league’s 32 teams must play on one Thursday.
And if there is an edge for anyone, it would have to go to the Cardinals, who have the benefit of playing this game at home and thus do not need to spend any time that would be better served preparing for the game actually getting to the game. That fact is not lost on them.
“No doubt,” Cardinals QB Carson Palmer said. “I don’t know when [the Vikings] leave, if you come out two days early or one day early. But no doubt, it’s an advantage being at home.”
Whether the Cardinals, Vikings or anyone wants to play on Thursday or not, every player and coach understands it’s a part of the schedule and thus not really worth complaining about.
Does it change their approach? Absolutely.
Could it lead to more injury or, at the very least, mean ailing players won’t have enough time to heal in order to be ready to go? How could it not?
Given less time to prepare, can the football possibly be as good as it otherwise would have been if the game was played on Sunday? Time will tell.
But whatever the drawbacks are, there is the benefit of the team getting another chance to play on national TV. It will be the Cardinals’ fourth national television game of the season, and word came out late Monday that the team’s Dec. 20 tilt in Philadelphia was “flexed” to Sunday Night Football, giving them a whopping five prime time games this season — six if you count their preseason game in Oakland.
No matter the day, you won’t find too many players upset with that kind of exposure.
“You love it, it’s a national game, everybody’s watching and you’ve got to show up and show out,” linebacker Kevin Minter said.
Added safety Tyrann Mathieu, “Naturally I’m pretty excited about it. I’m usually a prime time guy so hopefully I step up this week for my team.”
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