For an early example of the inequities possible in the NFL's new 16-games-in-17-weeks schedule, there's the eight-day disparity in preparation and rest time for the Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals before their Oct. 7 meeting.
The Rams, who, along with the rest of the NFC West, have this weekend off, get 13 days between games. The Bengals, who face the Seahawks in Seattle Monday night, will have only five days before they must play again at Anaheim Stadium.
Although a league spokesman said there has been no research on the matter--the old American Football League had bye weeks--it is possible that no major professional team has ever faced such a disadvantage. At the very least, in the "Monday Night Football" era, which began in 1970, no disparity this large is known to have occurred.
To try to lessen the burden, the Bengals will remain in Seattle next week and fly south on the Saturday before the game, according to a team spokesman.
The Rams are worrying about staying sharp during the long layoff. They took Tuesday and Wednesday off, will practice today, Friday and Saturday and take Sunday off before resuming their normal practice routine Monday. That's three days off before the Bengals have played.
"I worry about taking three days off," Ram Coach John Robinson said, "and I can't give you facts, but I believe if you take three days off, you really begin to lose track of what you do and you start to fall behind."
The Rams are trying to get at least a couple of their key players back at full speed.
Pro Bowl cornerback Jerry Gray will be activated off the injured reserve list next week after recovering from a knee injury, and tailback Cleveland Gary should get his first substantial practice time after a preseason battle with a back problem.
"We're going to have to be careful," Robinson said. "I think Jerry is in pretty good shape. But we're going to have to be careful with him in that regard, because what becomes scary is other kinds of injuries. With Gary, who really hasn't run (in practice) for over a month, same thing. You've got to say 'hey, let's don't injure him some other way.' "
To make room for Gray, the Rams released kicker John Carney.