NFL players work extremely hard. Their weeks are filled with intense practices, workouts, weight training, film study, and meetings — all before kickoff. The minute one game ends, preparation for the next begins. So what are the pitfalls of this high-pressure NFL lifestyle? One moment is surprisingly more dangerous than it seems.
A typical NFL workday
According to Newsday, a team’s workday schedule is basically the same every day of the week. Members may get one day off, but typically players spend Saturday traveling to a game. If the Sunday game is at home, then Saturday is filled with meetings and a walk-through practice. Here’s the basic schedule:
- 6 a.m. The cafeteria and training room open.
- 7 a.m. Weightlifting session
- 8 a.m. Special teams meetings, strategy review, and film time
- 9 a.m. Team meeting
- 10 a.m. Offensive/defensive meetings
- 12:30 p.m. Practice
- 2 p.m. Lunch
- 2:30 p.m. Media interviews
- 3 p.m. Weightlifting session
- 3:15 p.m. Additional special teams meetings and more film time
- 4 p.m. Offense/defense meeting
- 5 p.m. Coaches’ meeting
- 5 p.m. Dinner
When that work-filled week finally comes to an end on Friday evening, there’s a window of time before Saturday travel or more practice. Most NFL players want to unwind and blow off steam. This makes Friday the most anticipated day of the week — after game day, that is.
The most dangerous day for NFL players
Sports analyst and former NFL defensive end Akbar Gbajabiamila had the following to say about NFL Fridays: “As a player, I loved Fridays … We are thrill-seekers addicted to adrenaline. It’s a staple of Friday nights in the NFL.”
This “staple,” he said, involves players going out to clubs to buy top-shelf liquor and party in VIP booths. Calling it the NFL player’s “weekend,” Gbajabiamila said it was the only time they can go out without worrying about the next day’s physical performance. This also makes Friday the most dangerous day of the week for NFL football players.
Tragic Friday night outcomes
Former NFL center Barret Robbins contributed to the Oakland Raiders’ success during the 2002-03 season. A big partier, he got so drunk the night before Super Bowl XXXVII that he believed they’d already won the championship before it began. Despite being a starter, Robbins didn’t play in the Super Bowl. The Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 21-48.
During a Friday night in December 2018, Josh Brent, a third-year defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys, flipped his Mercedes in Irving, Texas, killing his best friend and teammate Jerry Brown, Jr., who was riding with him. Brent was convicted of intoxication and manslaughter, eventually getting sentenced to probation.
Unsure of how many drinks he had prior to the crash, Brent’s blood-alcohol level was 0.18%, more than twice the legal driving limit. He was also driving 110 miles per hour in a 45 mile-per-hour zone.
One week prior, Jovan Belcher, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, was found by police sleeping in a car outside an apartment complex after a big night out. Later that day, he took his own life after murdering his live-in girlfriend.
Sub-par performance on the field
NFL players are conditioned to perform under impaired conditions. It’s hard to shut down that macho mentality when one is in an inebriated state. Admitting to being intoxicated could cause a player to lose his job. In fact, impairment off the field can cause some players to blur the lines on it.
Quarterback Alex Smith learned the hard way. He took a hit that concussed him during the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 10 game against the St. Louis Rams. Smith continued to play without regard for his personal safety and threw a 14-yard touchdown pass with blurred vision. He was later diagnosed with a concussion.
People ask, “How could this happen?” Those familiar with NFL Friday nights may ask, “Why doesn’t it happen more?”