Patriots

Matt Cassel: Inside the physical and mental toll of Thursday NFL games

Matt Cassel: Inside the physical and mental toll of Thursday NFL games

The Thursday night game is by far the most difficult game to prepare for.

You can’t get into as much depth as you normally would in your game plan because you just don’t have the time. You’ve got to jump right into the next opponent.

There might be times when you review some stuff from last game, but really, you jump right into the work week and go straight into getting your body healthy, getting a workout in and starting to understand what your next opponent does.

The coaches actually get ahead of it a little bit: On the Friday before that previous Sunday's game, they’ve already done some prep on the team so they’re not so far behind.

But for players, it’s all about getting your body right. There’s really no time to get any true timing going on in terms of pass patterns, because you don’t practice. It’s all walk-through format. It’s a big week of mental preparation so you can have enough time to heal your body for Thursday night.

You’re basically skipping your Monday and Tuesday rest period you'd have on a normal week. And because it’s so condensed, you’ll have longer days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with extended walk-through periods on those days.

It’s like a practice format: You go through all your looks and cards and everything else that you would normally get in a practice. But it’s just walk-through, because you can’t physically go out there and pound guys when you know you’ve got to get the reps in.

There’s a lot more install, too. You usually start with first- and second-down runs and passes, then get right into third down on that first Monday. By Tuesday, you have a good idea of what you’re doing in terms of red zone, and then Wednesday is the day before the game in which you’re pulling all that stuff together.

You’ve got to get through the run game checks, the pass checks, the protection schemes and what you’re trying to do. From a mental standpoint, it's super taxing.

Personally, I always loved the 1 p.m. Sunday games. Because by the time you get done with that game, you get to go home, get off your feet -- maybe have a few soda pops, if you know what I mean -- and be with your family. And the hardest part about late-night games for me was sitting around in a hotel all day long. I would just wait and think, “Come on, let’s get it on already.” 

But when the schedule comes out, everybody knows they have a Thursday night game. They know it’s something that’s part of the season.

The other thing that you mentally push through with is that, as soon as that Thursday night game is over, it’s like an extension of a bye week. You get the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of extra rest leading up to the following week.

A lot of guys lean on that part and say: “Look, I know this is going to be a tough week physically and mentally. But come Friday, we’re all going to be feeling good because we get those extra three days to recuperate and maybe get away from football for a bit to do those things that really help people recover.”

So, when the lights come on and you know it’s time to rock and roll, the adrenaline kicks in and you’re ready to go. That’s how it’s always been for most players. They know they have a job to do, and they know that this what they do for a living: They're on primetime television, so they don’t want to go out and get embarrassed on Thursday Night Football when everybody’s watching.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

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Will Tom Brady play to 47? Patriots QB reacts to Alex Guerrero's comments

Will Tom Brady play to 47? Patriots QB reacts to Alex Guerrero's comments

It's your move, Tom Brady.

Brady's business partner and personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, put a new "expiration date" on the New England Patriots quarterback Thursday, admitting that Brady recently told him he feels he can play until age 46 or 47 instead of just 45.

Westwood One's Jim Gray asked Brady about Guerrero's remarks Thursday night, and if he does, in fact, plan on playing past age 45.

"I’m feeling pretty great,” Brady told Gray. “I have the support of Alex and we have a great relationship and we work together a lot. He keeps me feeling good. It’s actually amazing what he’s able to do and accomplish, the two of us together.

"I am going to keep playing as long as I can. We’ll see how long it goes. Easier said than done."

That's a more generic answer than Brady gave Wednesday, when the 42-year-old explained why he set 45 as his target retirement age (before Guerrero upped the ante).

It's not surprising Brady is keeping things open-ended, though. His contract allows him to become a free agent in March 2020, so he has plenty of options in front of him -- stay with the Patriots, join another team, or retire -- depending on how this season goes.

In the meantime, he'd rather not stir up any more trouble ahead of Sunday's matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I know the kind of effort I am putting in right now, but what a great privilege to play a sport that I love," Brady added. "I think a lot of people would actually pay money to play quarterback in the NFL and the fact that people pay me money makes it pretty amazing."

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Tom Brady praises Colin Kaepernick, calls upcoming workout 'pretty cool'

Tom Brady praises Colin Kaepernick, calls upcoming workout 'pretty cool'

The New England Patriots are one of 11 teams that will have a representative at Colin Kaepernick's workout Saturday.

Their starting quarterback is a fan of Kaepernick, who last played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. In an interview Thursday night on Westwood One, host Jim Gray asked Brady if he thought a quarterback like Kaepernick could successfully return to the league after a three-year absence.

"I think being a pro quarterback is very challenging in and of itself," Brady told Gray. "To have time off is a challenge, but Colin's overcome a lot of challenges in his career, and he's always found a way to produce.

"He's very mentally tough, and I think it's pretty cool that he's getting that opportunity."

Brady has been supportive of Kaepernick in the past, admitting in 2017 he's always "admired" the ex-Niners QB after San Francisco beat the Patriots in Foxboro in 2012 and expressing his hope that another team sign Kaepernick.

That didn't happen, of course: Kaepernick went unclaimed in 2017 free agency after protesting racial inequality and social injustice in America by sitting and/or kneeling during the national anthem.

The Patriots have been loosely speculated as a team that could sign the 32-year-old as Brady's backup. At the very least, it appears the 42-year-old respects Kaepernick -- wherever he ends up.

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