Thursday night and international games have sparked discussion about unfair NFL travel requirements, but Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas shared a domestic issue.
In response to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick — who said he wouldn’t rush to return to Mexico City — Thomas pointed out that the Atlanta Falcons have a short week after a cross-country trip.
“[T]he real complaining should be from teams that have to play on the west coast on Monday night… my friends on the [Falcons] just got home at 8:32am. New week starts in less than 24 hrs.”
Atlanta traveled to the Pacific Northwest, where they clipped the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win Monday night. The Falcons hopped on a plane, returned to Georgia and are now limited in recovery time.
The reigning NFC champions will begin preparing Wednesday for a 1 p.m. ET tilt Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Going from a Monday night showdown to an early-window Sunday kick is hard enough. Throwing in a five-hour plane ride between the games offers a considerable advantage to the next opponent — even if the matchup favors an exhausted Falcons team anyway.
There will always be travel and fatigue issues involved as long as the NFL keeps its current schedule structure. Nevertheless, the league should monitor cross-country trips and attempt to eliminate Monday/Sunday turnarounds without a bye.