Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Queen isn’t a big fan of cold tubs. Not a big fan of hot tubs, either, at least during the season.
But when you play 59 snaps in the seventh game of a 17-game NFL season on a Sunday afternoon, and the eighth game comes just four days later, priorities change. Suddenly, you’re a little more willing to take a dip in an ice bath.
“It’s frickin’ four days and stuff — excuse my language — but whatever you can do to refresh your mind, refresh your body, however you do that, whatever the best way for you, personally, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Queen said Tuesday in the Ravens’ locker room, where the team was packing its bags for Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “So whatever I can get a head [start] on for this game, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Their prime-time matchup inside Raymond James Stadium doesn’t look like the potential Super Bowl showdown it was a month ago. The Ravens (4-3) are coming off an ugly victory Sunday over the Cleveland Browns and haven’t strung together two wins in a row this season. The Buccaneers (3-4) have dropped four of their past five games, including a 21-3 blowout loss Sunday to the rebuilding Carolina Panthers.
But whatever strategic tests await the teams Thursday, the physical challenges might be even greater. Eight Ravens and 11 Buccaneers players were listed on Tuesday’s injury report. In a normal game week, the Ravens would hold their first practice of the week on a Wednesday. This week, they’re flying to Tampa on Wednesday. Some players don’t feel fully recovered from the physical toil of a Sunday game until the following Friday. So, yes, Thursday night games are a sore spot for players and coaches.
“These guys are going to be out there playing on four days,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “You watch the Thursday night games and you see the effects of that; I think everyone can kind of see that if you’re a fan. So that’s a big challenge. Travel, when you’re on the road, it’s tough to travel on [Wednesday]. So we have to be mindful of that.
“Then, in terms of the game-plan stuff, just trying to put a game plan together that addresses the issues that you’re facing, like, for instance, the Buccaneers’ blitz package. Do it in a way that you can actually get it down quickly and execute it on Thursday night in real time. So those two things are the main issues.”
While “Thursday Night Football” has become an easy target for critics with its lower-stakes, lower-scoring matchups, its injury rate remains relatively stable. A 2021 analysis found that, in games from the 2012 to 2020 season, in-game injuries were slightly less common on Thursdays (1.55 injuries per 100 plays) than on other days (1.58).
But the short week is taxing in other ways. Outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, who’s played in three Thursday night games since 2019 and seven total in his career, said managing the Sunday-to-Thursday turnaround is “all mental.”
“At the end of the day, yeah, you just came off a game Sunday and you’ve got to play a Thursday night game,” Pierre-Paul said Tuesday. “Most teams don’t practice. They just do walk-throughs and stuff. But at the end of the day, it’s all mental. The physical part doesn’t go nowhere. You’ve just got to turn it on and turn it off. It’s easy to turn it on. It’s all mental with everybody around me. We did a great week of practice, and the mental part is all taken care of. Now we just have to figure the physical part out. I’m pretty sure we’ll do that.”
Preparation started in the hours after the Ravens’ win Sunday. Outside linebacker Justin Houston said in the locker room that he was getting ready “right now — like, literally.” Cornerback Marlon Humphrey said he’d probably study film of Tampa Bay’s offense as he watched “Sunday Night Football.” To help with the team’s recovery, the Ravens held a short walk-through Monday night before returning to practice Tuesday afternoon. Quarterback Lamar Jackson called the week a “quick turnaround.”
“It’s only probably, like, two or three days before you’re traveling and doing all the necessary stuff to get to your opponent, and we’re going away again,” he said Monday. “So that’s about it, but it’s football. We’ve just got to get prepared.”
If there is a silver lining to the Ravens’ time crunch in Week 8, it’s the long wait for Week 9. The team’s next game, against the New Orleans Saints, isn’t until Nov. 7 — 11 days after Thursday’s game. Win or lose Thursday, the Ravens should be feeling better about that.
Ravens at Buccaneers
Thursday, 8:15 p.m.
TV: Ch. 2 Stream: Amazon Prime
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Ravens by 1 1/2