ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jon Gruden walked into his Monday press conference looking pretty beat. He had either been up a long time or was late getting to sleep, clearly exhausted from nonstop prep work.
There would be no break after his meeting with the media, not with the L.A. Chargers coming to town for “Thursday Night Football.”
Gruden isn’t thrilled about the compacted week, with little time to prepare for such an important game. Don’t forget Gruden’s the type of coach to enter a practice week with a massive game plan loaded with options for every scenario. It’s difficult to get it all done in such a short span.
That says nothing about the physical toll of playing two games in five days. The Raiders are banged up at several spots without much time to recover.
That’s why Gruden doesn’t care much for the concept of playing on a Thursday night. Teams have traditionally played on Thanksgiving, but regular Thursday games were instituted in the mid-2000s and were shown on NFL Network.
Most teams don’t like playing in these games, especially those that have to add travel to an already compacted week. The games are generally sloppier due to the lack of turnaround time for practice or recovery. Gruden made it crystal clear he’s no fan of this game.
“I hate this,” Gruden said. “I don’t believe in this Thursday football. I’m not going to be on a soapbox any more than that. It hurts us. It hurts both teams. The preparation … I take a lot of pride in getting our guys ready to play. We need a little time to do that, but a lot of people disagree with me. It will be a challenge.”
The Raiders are 4-4 entering this game with the Chargers, who beat Green Bay at home on Sunday afternoon. This game is part of a three-game homestand where the Raiders are trying to surge back into the playoff hunt.
The Chargers are doing the same, starting to roll after two straight wins against teams from the NFC North.
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A win would be huge for both teams, with a Tuesday practice and a Wednesday walk-through before suiting up for real on Thursday night at Oakland Coliseum. Teams typically chip away at these Thursday night games, doing as much advance work as possible. That has been complicated by incredible in-season Raiders roster turnover and the fact Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt was fired just last week. It’s hard to track tendencies and play usage when there’s a new guy making calls.
The Raiders will handle an adverse situation as best they can and try to get a win against a tough AFC West opponent more talented than their record suggests.