DeAngelo Williams isn’t commissioner of the NFL, but if he were, he’d get rid of Thursday Night Football. For as much as the NFL claims it cares about player safety, Williams believes it’s hypocritical for the league to force players to play two games in five days.
“Absolutely,” the Steelers running back told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “As of right now, you don’t have to worry about the 18-game season. You don’t have to worry about the extension of the playoffs. You know what’s keeping that at bay or (why) you don’t hear much talk about that now? Because the ratings are down. So you can’t keep saturating the market because the ratings are down because that means they’re just going to drop even more and you can’t sell those packages.
“If they cared about us at all, there wouldn’t be Thursday night games,” Williams continued. “You got two games in five days? As brutal as the sport is? And on top of that, all these protocols and stuff – we’re at a place now where doctors tell you how you feel – not how you physically feel. So it’s been rough for everybody.”
While Williams appreciates that the league has upped the ante when it comes to concussions and brain damage, he’s not sure why other body parts aren’t just as important. As he pointed out, players have arms, legs, knees, hips, backs and torsos that take a pounding on a weekly basis.
“The biggest focus has been on the human brain – the CTE, the scans and the concussions,” Williams said. “But anything from the neck down, you’re fair game. This league now, it’s physician-enforced. You’re not going back on a field, whether you feel great or you feel bad, without a physician – the physician that saw you at the time of the injury – releases you from that injury.”
However, Williams, 33, did say that players need to be protected from themselves. Due to their hyper-competitive nature – and their desire to earn a living – players often push themselves to play through pain, even when they shouldn’t.
“Absolutely,” Williams said. “This is a barbaric sport. Us as gladiators, we try to get out there and we try to play sometimes beyond our body’s pain tolerance. That’s because you have those fans cheering and the adrenaline is pumping. Once the adrenaline leaves, the pain creeps in. . . . But whether the employers care about you or not, you’re paid to do a job. When you get those pay checks, whether they care about you or not doesn’t matter – because they’re paying you to do a job. Not only are they paying you to do a job, but you’ve already fallen in love and have that passion for the game of football. So as far as you’re concerned, what your employer’s thinking about or talking about or caring about doesn’t bother you. It doesn’t matter to you. Because it’s about what you’re going through with our teammates – because we’re all going through he same thing, whether you’re making $100 million or where they’re making $1 million or whether you’re making $370,000. We’re all going through the same thing. We all feel the same thing. The difference between us and a lot of other jobs is we actually talk to each other and we actually reminisce and hang out and chill and get a better understanding of each other, as opposed to some other companies.”
Getting back to the NFL’s sagging ratings, many people believe that the election was – and is – a big reason why. Whether it it is or isn’t, Williams said the election has not affected the Steelers’ locker room.
“When he comes into office, we’re going to see what happens,” Williams said of Donald Trump. “That’s the same approach we took with Obama. We talk about things in the locker room completely different from corporate America or people that talk in other jobs. We talk freely. Nobody’s emotionally tied to the conversations that we’re having and we get to see how people feel about certain issues – and not only see how people feel about certain issues, but we get to see how people feel from various backgrounds. It’s been a consensus. We all listen to each other, we state our case and points, and we move on. No harm, no foul. If you had that conversation (in a traditional job setting), somebody would be brought to the principal’s office.”