FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- It's hard to find a player who looks forward to Thursday Night Football.
The quick turnaround from Sunday to Thursday means less recovery time and practice time to fix things that need to be addressed. That's no different for the Atlanta Falcons who face the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday.
Players, especially after the game, are quick to criticize the league for the mere existence of the game. In an era where player safety concerns are at an all-time high, some can't fathom why the NFL still allows for teams to play on Thursday in what's usually a lackluster matchup.
Richie Incognito said Thursday night games "suck" and "throw a wrench" in the schedule. Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said the league should ban Thursday night games.
Their grievances are legitimate.
But Falcons star receiver Julio Jones isn't complaining.
"I feel great. I’m ready to go," Jones said on Tuesday, just two days after the Falcons lost to the Minnesota Vikings 14-9.
The Falcons didn't score a touchdown in that game. Jones only had two catches for 24 yards. The week prior, he went off for more than 250 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons offensive struggles seemed to be ending against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the Vikings brought a harsh reality back to The Benz that the Falcons offense, which was the best in the NFL a year ago, hadn't quite reignited.
In fact, it still needs a lot of work. Now, the Falcons only have three days to get ready for a Saints defense that ranks 12th in the league in points allowed with 20.2 and has made great strides since last season.
Jones realizes he didn't take any big hits last Sunday, and that is contributing to why he's so fresh. That, and the fact he's an athletic marvel.
"If I was taking a lot of shots or went through a lot Sunday, then I’d be like, 'Okay this is a quick turnaround for me.’ But I’m fresh. I’m ready to go. I’ve slept well, got my massages. I took care of myself. I’m ready to go," Jones said.
It's not the same for linebacker De'Vondre Campbell who has to be sharp for the running back tandem of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. The two Saints backs have 16 touchdowns on the ground this season and help spread out the offense.
Campbell's quick turnaround means less time to prepare for them while recovering as the Falcons third-leading tackler.
"It’s really difficult because you’re losing a couple days to get your body back," Campbell said. "So you have to speed up your recovery process and everything that you do in a normal week, you have to do it twice as much. So that’s just the biggest challenge."
While no one may be too fond of playing on Thursday night, you won't find any lack of motivation. The Saints (9-3) and the Falcons (7-5) are a heated rivalry. And for the Falcons, it's a must-win if they want to get back into the playoff picture. A loss substantially lowers their chances of returning to the postseason a season after winning the NFC. The Saints currently lead the NFC South.
"We all know how important it is," Campbell said. "Especially coming down this final stretch. We've got a lot at stake right now."