Everything on a short week is strange. For teams and players that get regimented into routines, the flying monkey wrench is that Thursday Night Football comes at a time when routine is tossed aside and football instinct takes over.
In conversations with players Tuesday, the general feeling is that they're physically beaten up, but their minds are telling them that Tuesday is Friday and in collective denial. It's part of being a football player. You dial it up on game day, whether it's at noon Sunday or 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
While dinged-up players are being forcibly introduced to the cold tub or getting treatment for specific injuries, the worst of the two-games-in-five-days scenario is upon them.
Jared Allen, clearly a glass-half-full guy, said there are advantages to the short week, despite the nagging pain that they fight through.
"Short weeks can be cool just from the fact that you don't over-think things, you just go out and play," Allen said. "From a health point, they suck. It's tough getting the body ready."
It helps that the Vikings are 5-2 and playing the game at home. There is an enthusiasm that is palpable in the locker room that didn't exist a year ago at this time, when the Vikings were starting the long process of closing out the second half of the season with no realistic prospect of finishing any higher than fourth in the NFC North. This time around there is renewed enthusiasm and the aches and pain don't ache or pain quite as much.
"When you're winning, it's always good and positive," Adrian Peterson said. "Guys just tune in more and believe in one another. Offensively, we didn't play well, but other guys stepped up. The defense stepped up. We know we have each other's back when we look at the big scheme when we're able to evaluate previous games. The mood in the locker room is good."
It can be argued that both teams are in the same position having to play on short notice. But the Vikings are at home for the game, so they don't have to make the 2½-hour flight to Tampa. The brain can forget Sunday's game, but the body provides a constant, painful reminder of what happened and taking the rigors of air travel out of the equation on a short week is just as important as having the thunderous Metrodome crowd cheering them on.
"We're in a more favorable position than Tampa," Chad Greenway said. "To have to fly up here Wednesday to get to the game, it's a tough situation they're putting the road teams in. We're happy to be home in front of our crowd. It's probably tougher physically just to get your body back in that short amount of order, because mentally you can just put that game behind you and move on."
On a regular week, traveling on Saturday is normal. After one day of practice, traveling is an inconvenience that has helped lead to the home team being 5-1 in the new-look NFL Network Thursday night game package.
"I think it's a huge advantage," Allen said. "I couldn't imagine getting on a plane tomorrow. Just from the standpoints of bumps, bruises and swelling, getting on an airplane, traveling, is tough. At least we've got the home game."
The Vikings are ripe for success. Tampa doesn't travel well. The Vikings haven't lost at home since the sellout streak got snapped. But, as good teams do, the Vikings don't get too cocky about their standing. In fact, they become more critical of the things they do wrong, which serves as further motivation – which could be bad news for Tampa Bay Thursday night.
"We haven't accomplished anything asides being 5-2," Greenway said. "We haven't reached any of our goals or anything. We're just putting ourselves in a better position. It's all for naught if you don't get the next one.
"We're certainly not happy where we're at – we think we can get better yet. We want to keep working and trying to improve. We're going to have another opportunity in a couple of days. We got the win (Sunday); that was the most important part. Now we have to move on to the next week. This game is getting on us in a hurry, so we have to put that behind us."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings finding positives in quick turnaround
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