Listen to any NFL head coach and regardless of when their bye comes during the season, it's always the best time. That's because they're right.
Starting in early August when training camps get underway, players and coaches (as well as other staffers) begin what is known in the business as "the grind." Long hours are consumed by practice, meetings and games. If you actually added up all the hours worked during a season, it would be a shocking number to those on the outside. But it's accepted as the norm when you're in the business.
The grind is almost three months old when the Falcons get to their bye this year. To be able to step back and actually take a deep breath away from football is just what everyone needs at this time of the year. Players, coaches and staff need to re-energize for the remainder of the season. This little break during a grueling season goes along way towards helping everyone gear up for the long run. It allows injured players an extra week to heal and possibly get back in the lineup.
The bye week concept was instituted by the league in 1990. For fans who have followed pro football for awhile might remember that there was actually two seasons where there were 16 games stretched over 18 weeks that included two bye weeks. The first time that was tried was 1993 when the Rams were still playing in Los Angeles, the Oilers called Houston home and the team in Arizona was known as the Phoenix Cardinals.
Until the league moved to an even number of 32 teams in 2002 (with the inclusion of the Houston Texans), the byes were scheduled on any given week on a rotating basis. That meant you could have a bye on opening weekend or on the final week of the regular season. But that was changed, so now the earliest a team can have a bye is Week 4 and the last possible date is Week 10.
What exactly does the bye week mean for a team? The Falcons didn't just take the rest of the week off after the Bengals game. The players practiced, albeit lightly, today and will have another session Thursday, then be off through the weekend.
Injured players will have to come in every day and do their normal rehab in order to try to get ready for the Tampa Bay game. On Monday, the Falcons will take advantage of the extra day of preparation by scheduling a practice to get a jump on the Buccaneers game plan.
Regardless of when the bye falls for each NFL team, it's always welcomed with open arms. This year is no different. The grind comes to a momentary halt this weekend. So, excuse me but I have to go and try to enjoy this blip on the NFL calendar. It's good "bye" for now!