By Tim Graham
Buffalo Bills safety, captain and union steward George Wilson doesn't know what to expect Thursday night.
He never has played on a Thursday night, and he admitted he hasn't watched a single Thursday night game all season.
"I don't have NFL Network at home," Wilson said.
An NFL player without the NFL Network? Wilson explained he has Time Warner Cable. He was informed Time Warner carries the station now.
"Obviously, it must cost extra to get it," Wilson replied. "It's not in the normal cable package, so I don't have it."
Thursday night games also can take an expensive toll on the players, who must put their bodies through two games in five days.
The shortened week gives teams only one day to practice in between games and doesn't allow for a full week of healing, as the Bills and Miami Dolphins will experience this week in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bills and Dolphins each will be playing for the third time in 12 days.
"I don't like it," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "I think it's tough on the players. We have quite a few players that sometimes don't get back on the practice field until Thursday. So I think this is a tough turnaround for a football team and for the players in general.
"I'm not a big fan. But it's here, and that's what it is, and you deal with it."
Wilson suggested Thursday night games can be a boon for teams that are thriving. They get the weekend off after the game, essentially giving them a quasi bye.
But the Bills are in a bad way. They've lost four of their past five games.
"It's a tough spot," Wilson said. "It could be good for you if you win the Sunday and the Thursday game because you get a long week to prepare for your next opponent, but it could hurt you if you do have injuries or you're banged up or the season's not going the way you'd like for it to. Then it becomes a challenge."
The NFL adopted a 13-week Thursday night schedule this season for the NFL Network. Every team must play one, including three Thanksgiving contests on other stations.
"The league is trying to boost their viewership and commercial opportunities," Wilson said. "They give each and every team an opportunity to what they deem as prime time. I guess it's an opportunity for the league and each individual franchise to get some airtime."
Are there any alternatives to keeping a Thursday schedule while reducing the harm it can do to the players?
"I have no say-so, zero," Gailey said. "So I'm not going to waste brain cells thinking about it."
Bills running back Fred Jackson already has been ruled out of Thursday night's game with a concussion that he might have been able to recover from if the Bills were playing Sunday.
Defensive end Chris Kelsay missed Sunday's game with a neck injury he suffered last Thursday. Gailey classified Kelsay's issue as minor, but with so little time to recoup, Gailey said Kelsay's chances to play against the Dolphins are "probably 50-50."
Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams and receiver Stevie Johnson have missed practices in recent weeks to nurse injuries. They won't have that luxury this week.
"It's tough, but this is what we signed up for," Wilson said. "We're not going to make any gripes or complaints about it. We're just going to get it done."
Perhaps working in Buffalo's favor is how difficult the Thursday night challenge has been for road teams. They are 3-6 so far, although the visitor has won two of the past three weeks.
"Miami's going through the same thing we're going through," Wilson said. "They're coming off a tough loss and they got a short week. Both teams are in similar positions.
"The team that handles this sudden change, this situation the best, most likely comes out with the victory."