Time to say farewell to the field at FedEx Field

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The Redskins have said nothing official regarding a potential replacement of the “natural grass” (which is neither natural, nor grass) at FedEx Field, but they’ll have no choice.  Not in the aftermath of three late-season torn ACLs in the past two years, including an ACL tear suffered by the most important player the franchise has had since Sammy Baugh.

On Monday, coach Mike Shanahan suggested that he’s be willing to consider a switch to an artificial surface.  That willingness, we predict, will become the first of possibly many belated face-saving steps now that Robert Griffin III has seen his ACL and LCL shredded there.

Not that the playing surface bears all, or any, of the blame.  The guy was injured.  He shouldn’t have been on the field.  It was obvious then, it’s more obvious now.

Changing the turf, if/when (when) it happens, will be part of the effort to move forward, part of the belated effort to demonstrate to players and fans and media and everyone else that the Redskins care about player safety.

Even though, before Sunday, they apparently didn’t.

Consider this new video from Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, taken of the field before the game.  “This is terrible,” Robinson says in the video posted at SportsRadioKJR.com.  “I’m surprised they didn’t dump sand in the middle.  It’s terrible. . . .  Pregame, it’s gonna be done.”

It’s definitely done, now.  Given owner Daniel Snyder’s fondness for hosting college football games and concerts at the facility, it’s time to switch to an artificial surface.

Then again, there’s a chance that the same stubbornness that kept Griffin in the game long past the point at which he should have come out will keep the sand/dirt/whatever in place at FedEx Field for years to come.

That’s why, once and for all, the NFL needs to adopt far more stringent field uniformity requirements.  The condition of FedEx Field on Sunday proves that the current approach isn’t working, and if the league has any regard for player safety it should be the first item on the offseason agenda of the Competition Committee.

86 responses to “Time to say farewell to the field at FedEx Field

  1. Every field should be inspected days before the game by an NFL expert. If there is an issue then it must be fixed and if it isn’t then a substantial fine should be levied! Hurt the owners in the pocket since they choose to get the players hurt on the field.

  2. How many years have they been playing there? Suddenly now it’s the cause of all their problems. Right …

  3. I’ve often thought the “painted dirt” descriptions were exaggeration. But in that video it clearly is just paint on the dirt…you can see the paint chip away as he scratched the surface to reveal sand and dirt. It’s astounding really. It is bad enough that it just looks ugly on TV…but in that game alone there were two torn ACLs, an offensive lineman who quickly aggravated an existing ankle injury, and a kicker who went on IR with an ankle injury. It has become commonplace for kick-offs to go deep in the end zone in the NFL but in that game neither kicker could even get loft on their kicks because they could not plant.

    Four separate players, at least, suffered leg injuries in that game due in no small part to the playing conditions. How can the team sit by and not make a change next yet?

  4. Any organization that can’t provide adequate field of play should get over +100k in fines. It’s ridiculous that they would have a team whose salary is so high and they let them play on such a terrible surface. This is another reason players can’t stand Goodell. Take me out of the game because I got a concussion, but let me play on a field of slop.

  5. I was dumbfounded by how many talking heads said rg 3 was shanahan is not to blame. It was clear by the look up the sideline and how bad he moved back to the huddle, that he was compromised before throwing the second td pass. Who is in charge there?

  6. It’s terrible when a coach puts the lack of player safety ahead of having his own neck on the chopping block.

  7. I don’t believe for a second that the field is like it is because of money. Snyder has shown time and time again a willingness to spend money where needed to keep the fans coming.

    This complaining about the field happens to be because RGIII got hurt. Before that, and still now, teams are saying that is a competitive advantage. What happened to the old practice of putting longer cleats on the players.

    This is something that has been the same for years. Why are we complaining now?

    I am extremely upset that RGIII is hurt, but that could’ve happened anywhere. I remember not long ago, players complaining about artificial turf because your feet could get stuck easier.

    I didn’t like Shanny leaving RGIII in, however at the end of the day, he made a decision based on the feelings of the players and with the “best” doctor on the sidelines.

    Stuff happens. He will get better and we will be okay.

    Maybe changing everything is part of the problem. Grass has been the same way since football started, we still let kids and everyone else play on it. It isn’t the end of the world.

  8. U of MD lost 4 QBs to knee and foot injuries this past season practicing and playing on turf fields both home and away. 4. Turf is not the answer for FedEx. I’d like to know specifically what GB has at their stadium.

    Elite European soccer teams will not play on turf fields in the US for a reason. Natural grass is best. But in this day and age there has to be a way to provide a natural field that can be maintained at a high level throughout the year.

  9. Whatever the conditions are at any field, it is the home team that has to play there more than anyone…so they are only hurting themselves (sometimes physically). I think the fields should be in fair shape to play on, but a mandate doesn’t have to come from the league because the “best type of field” keeps changing. I thought that artifical turfs were being replaced years ago because THEY were the culprit. This was a case where an injured player hurt himself because he shouldn’t have been in the game, not due to the type of turf.

  10. The NFL and NFLPA need to pull their collective heads out of their behinds on this stuff. Player safety is important in a game where injuries occur simply because of the nature of the game. Fix the fields, mandate the best helmets be worn, mandate all players wear mouth guards and proper pads. That is much more important than tossing a flag after the fact and fining guys for hits that look or sound bad.

    The grass vs. synthetic turf argument has shifted over the years. It used to be that the turf was too hard (painted concrete) and then it transitioned into it caused more injuries (knees, ironically) than natural grass. That argument does not seem valid anymore. The NFL needs to figure out what the best surface for the game is and then mandate that. Any team/facility not in compliance should be upgraded using NFL revenue PRIOR to the split between the league and players. This is a one-time cost for the most part. The teams should shoulder the financial cost of upkeep & maintenance after initial upgrades. There is no reason a multi-billion dollar industry could not get this done prior to next season.

  11. The Eagles play huge amounts of college/high school games at the Linc and host concerts and even Monster Truck rallies there!

    That field is always in great condition and is just down the road from FedEx Field. I think the Skins just need to pay for better grounds keepers.

  12. Most important player since Sammy Baugh? The superlatives for a rookie just keep rolling out. Griffin one day may be that important, but for now I think I’d have to put him behind people like Sonny Jurgensen, John Riggins and Art Monk… You know, guys who actually accomplished stuff instead of just having potential.

  13. To bad it has taken Washington the major injury to RG3’s knee to even consider a better field.
    Even if Snyder and Shannahan haven’t come out and said it publicly, you can beat your last dollar they Will(!) fix that field. They have way to much invested in RG3, and having him hurt that knee twice in the same season on that field should be enough reasoning.

  14. Stop with the uniformity crap and the unpaid advertisement for FieldTurf Mike. FedEx and Soldier need new fields, that’s for sure. There needs to be a league-wide standard but that doesn’t mean everyone should get an artificial surface. There are plenty of beautiful and safe natural/hybrid grass surfaces in the NFL.

    The league needs to step in and ensure players don’t play on junk. But that doesn’t mean every field needs to be exactly the same.

  15. “Shame on me for trying to make the fields perfect.” <—–Snyder in a 1999 interview with SI after he fired the groundskeepers

  16. I dont get why people are blaming Shanahan for the injury. Didnt Philip Rivers play in a playoff game a few years ago with a partially damaged ACL as well and won the game?? I didnt hear everyone complaining then. Players play hurt, and even somewhat injured all the time. Hindsight is 20/20

  17. Why not just keep real grass and simply maintain it properly. Delaware Valley College has a whole school dedicated to growing grass properly.

  18. Up until two years ago Heinz Field in Pittsburgh was inarguably the worst grass surface in the NFL…as voted by the players themselves.

    The combination of the elements, having a college co-tennat (like the Linc and unlike Fed Ex) and playing high school games there made Heinz a massive ketchup pit. Remember when the punt landed pointed side up on the Monday night game against Miami?

    But the last two years it’s been great. The Steelers tried everything with hybrid fibers mixed in with grass, heated coils….finally they went to the 100% real deal and just ate $100,000 or so to change it several times a year. Maybe they were lucky with weather, too.

  19. you know what you get for painting dirt green to
    make believe it is grass?

    an injured franchise player, what a bunch of dum dums.

    the skins are run by a bunch of clowns………

    oh boy!

  20. I have stood on this field. I might as well have been standing on a patchy grass field behind an abandoned power plant. It’s that awful.

  21. Can we stop with this talk about the league and player safety. it is a myth to quiet down all the law suits against the league. If the league truly cared about player safety, then they would be the one hiring the doctors on the side line and not the team. They would make chop blocks illegal, they would require the teams, especially teams that play outdoor to have a good field to play on.

    As a Steelers fan i can speak on this, since we have an awful field. I still remember the Monday night game against the Dolphins were the field was an embarrassment. The raiders and their field with the missing patch in the middle due to baseball. It just seems like for a 9 billion dollar business, worrying about playing conditions should be an after-thought, but don’t be surprised if teams across the league stick to the status quo.

  22. What if was made the field like that intensionaly like so many other teams have been said to do? Then do we say the field should be removed? I remember the Steelers did that to the raiders in the playoffs one year if I’m correct

  23. it IS possible to have a quality grass field this time of year in cold weather states. GB has done it very well for a long time. Last I heard was they were using a huge set of growing lamps that cover about a 10 yd section of the field. they would leave it there for a few days and then move it 10 yds. sounds crazy but its working.
    all that being said RG3 shouldnt have been playing in that game at all IMO

  24. Artificial turf has come a long, long way if we’re suggesting replacing natural grass with turf to prevent injuries.

  25. Remember a few years back when the field at Gillette Stadium was atrocious? After a game when the turf was questionable pre-game, it was a ridiculous surface after that game.

    What did Robert Kraft do? Replaced it before the next game.

    It isn’t that difficult.

  26. Expect to see less soccer games in DC (Maryland) once turf goes down. They will need to pay $150K per game to bring in sod to place over the turf like they do in Baltimore every time they have a international soccer game. Those guys will only play on grass.

  27. The same thing will happen at that laughable field in San Francisco. That’s in the shape it is on purpose and any injuries should be made directly to that poor excuse for a head coach.

  28. The problem is that the NFL doesn’t have the cohones to hit the owners wear they’ll feel it, in the wallet. You wanna get serious about it, then move the game and let Snyder lose the revenue. I realize that’s a logistical nightmare and maybe even impossible on short notice, but what else is going to make these guys invest the money they need to?

    To be clear, I am not for requiring all NFL teams to provide a “uniform” field surface. That’s never been part of the game, and it’s not necessary now. The vast majority of NFL surfaces are ready for action, and there are probably over 10 different turfs, grasses, etc, being used.

    I know this is simplistic, but if the grounds crew in Green Bay can keep Lambeau playable through January, then it can be done in DC, Chicago, San Fran, etc.


  29. If the redskins would had won their would no talk about any of these things what so ever. And its mostly redskin fans doing the bashing. Thats terrible.

  30. I must say I find it funny that I played high school ball on grass and so did everyone I know who played football and not one blown knee. Just shows you the cost of the get bigger always get bigger NFL.

  31. In 2010 Jay Cutler was removed from the NFC Championship in the 3rd quarter because of a knee injury. The Bears lost and Cutler was chastised by fans, the media and even fellow players for quiting on his team. Fast fwd 2 years and we find RG3 telling his coach and med staff he’s fine, when he’s obviously not. The Redskins lose in the 1st round with the QB subsequently aggravating his injury and now he and his coach are being chastised by fans, the media and even fellow players for not quiting on his team. Nobody is ever happy….and it’s gotta be somebody’s fault.

  32. RG3’s knee buckles and he falls to the turf…

    Coach Shanny: What’s it look like Doc?

    Doc Andrews: It doesn’t look good.

    Coach Shanny: Can he play?

    Doc Andrews: His knee is structurally destroyed.

    Coach Shanny: CAN HE PLAY??

    Doc Andrews: I don’t think he can even walk.


  33. What type of field does the Giants/Jets use? I don’t remember ever seeing it in bad shape, and it has a game there almost every week during season right?

  34. If you are going to have turf (maybe because you think it gives you an advantage, although I doubt the reality of such a conclusion), then do it right and have functional turf, not loose sand and dirt.

    If that’s not possible (whether due to weather, or other uses of stadium, or any other reason), then get something else.

    Not that hard to understand. Not like this is some pickup game with no money at stake.

  35. First, Dan Snyder should be ashamed. If you are going to pimp the stadium out for every event in town you should make sure it’s in good shape for YOUR team.

    Second, the new artificial turf is nice. Next turf and similar doesn’t grab like the old astroturf so that’s an option. Another option is better maintenance of actual grass. Philly uses a tray system with a grass / artificial mix. When one section is bad, it’s pulled and replaced.

    Shouldn’t be that hard to keep a field in decent shape.

  36. Flori0, did you get an estrogen shot or something? You seem remarkably emotional today.

    Here’s the thing about fields…BOTH teams play on them. Equal footing, there’s no advantage. If the field is crap, it’s crap for the home and the away team.

  37. When you watch the replay of the fumble that he went down on you can clearly see his foot go into a hole and get caught. If they’d maintained their field correctly he might not have been injured, or injured anywhere near as bad.

  38. Artificial surfaces aren’t without their problems; a number of years ago the Eagles had to rush to get their carpet down for a preseason game, did a poor job, and the Ravens refused to play on it.

    That said, the new artificial/live grass blends being installed in recent years seem to be holding up really well. They stay down 24/7/365 like real turf but are much more resilient and less problematic if a section needs to be replaced.

  39. Epic fail by Shanahan and Snyder should be fined. The condition of the field was horrendous and the fact that he allows so many other events on that “turf” only speaks to his greed.

    I hope RG3 comes back strong, I’m sure he will. It’s just too bad he had to shred his knee for NOTHING. Redskins fans thought they were so close- one step forward, two steps back.

    At least you know Cousins can play…

  40. This is a problem common on many fields that can see cold weather in Nov/Dec/Jan. A couple good frosts…cold temps and the grass dies. Then it gets played on and gets chewed up. But no one really notices until you are playing in January, or are in the hunt in December. Gilette Stadiums grass field would get so torn up during December that they would have to paint the dirt in the middle of the field green. It was one thing to fight and stay with natural grass when the alternative was that crappy astro-turf (essentially putting a carpet on concrete), but with the way todays field turf perfoms there is no reason for professional teams not to utilize it (excepting teams in in Southern California, FL, etc).

  41. You don’t need that FieldTurf crap. Do what they did with Lambeau Field – DD Grassmaster. Kentucky bluegrass with synthetic fibers sewn in every half inch. With proper drainage it holds up incredibly well.

    It’s a disgrace that the second or third most valuable franchise in the league can’t spend the coin on a proper field. And frankly the same goes for the Steelers, one of the most important franchises in the league. They make enough money, spend the resources to make sure you have a proper playing surface for your climate.

  42. Lol why is it that 95% of the football population bashes the Redskins? I guess only ACL tears happen on natural grass. Need we forget some stadiums collapsing such as the Vikings? That’s not important though.

  43. “Most important player since Sammy Baugh? The superlatives for a rookie just keep rolling out. Griffin one day may be that important, but for now I think I’d have to put him behind people like Sonny Jurgensen, John Riggins and Art Monk… You know, guys who actually accomplished stuff instead of just having potential.”

    Thank you for saying that. What an insult to the Redskins of the past. Florio, would you remind us all of who was the NFL MVP in 1972? Probably a pretty important figure.

    I like Griffin as much as the next guy, but some perspective please.

  44. I like how one of the arguments is “if they put in Field Turf, European soccer players won’t come and play over here…..” — who cares? Soccer is stupid anyway. Stay in Europe and play for 90 minutes to a “nil-nil” draw. Soccer is lame.

  45. You would think, if nothing else, Dan Schneider would at least want his field to LOOK good. Holy cow, this was a nationally broadcast event, the only game on TV in that time slot for the whole nation! If I’m hosting a party at my house, I want everything as perfect as I can get it. This was just negligence on Schneider’s part, not wanting to put the money into the field. It’s not like he doesn’t have the money, but like a lot of people with big money, they are cheap. I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. I’ve said for years, the Redskin’s problem is Dan Schneider, nothing else.

  46. I have seen alot worse fields then that… Arrowhead Stadium was just like that back in the 90’s Derrick Thomas was alive…The Kansas City Chiefs playing the Oakland Raiders…Its pouring down rain. They had to postpone the game for 25 minutes because the field was flooded and its still pouring down rain…And the day after the game…You want to talk about a freaking mess…They ground crew said think goodness the next game is away…Because they said it took them 2 weeks to get that field fixed and thousands and thousands of dollars later

  47. Lambeau has steam pipes underneath just like the stadiums in Europe that are played on all winter.
    I like seeing dirty uniforms and grass stuck in facemasks! You can tell how hard guys are playing, unless your QB has dirt covering his number on his back.

  48. Carl Spackler has some thoughts:

    This is a cross, ah, Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this is, that you can play 36 holes on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night on this stuff. Here, I’ve got pounds of this.

  49. @seattlecoug
    It is not just the European Soccer players that don’t want to play on turf but the USSF has not held a meaningful game on a turf field. Seattle wants to host a major game but can’t at this point. As to who cares? You do realize that going to turf on all NFL stadiums will practically guarantee that the US never hosts a World Cup. Now because you are close minded you won’t care, but you fail to see the value of hosting a World Cup. It brings in a lot of money. The US infrastructure makes it so they have to spend less than other countries to get an event like this up and running. So if you spend less you make more. Other countries need to build or renovate stadiums (yes plural) where as we just sell tickets.

    To the debate about Turf vs Natural as many others have pointed out some of the better cold weather fields are using the blend (GB and Philly). The argument about how many events are held there is a weak one as Philly holds a large amount of events as well. They typically hold 16 football games a year between the Eagles, Temple and the Army Navy game as well as concerts and other events.

    Maybe the NFL should rank the playing surfaces so they can see where they stand? If GB gets a higher value than Pittsburgh maybe Pittsburgh would look more towards GB as a model. Keep domes and open air in separate categories.

  50. As a Skins fan, that is very embarrassing! How could your team be worth $1.3 billion and you have a dirt field?! Unbelievable!

  51. With D.C. being in the transition zone, I don’t think it can handle the same grass as Philly & Green Bay as some has suggested, the bluegrass would burn up in the summer, it is a cool season grass. Fed Ex field is 419 bermudagrass that is overseeded with rye from what I’ve researched. The rye provides no stability just color for looks. Not sure what the panthers do but they may want to ask them. Their bermudagrass field is always in good shape with the same climate.

  52. “It’s definitely done, now. Given owner Daniel Snyder’s fondness for hosting college football games and concerts at the facility, it’s time to switch to an artificial surface.”

    Mike, can you please show us the study that says turf fields are better than torn up dirt or grass fields for player safety? Maybe before we jump to conclusions we might look for some data?

    Also, you are great at reporting news. That’s why we love this site. But it would be great if you posted your editorials separately and not mixed the two. We don’t need another journalist who fancies himself a ‘kingmaker’ or a ‘shaper’ of the sport he covers. This is why guys like Costas have endured. Even when we disagree with him it is clear when he is opining and when he is reporting. Boundaries please.

  53. Desso would work..It’s used in the US, England, Brazil, Italy, Spain, South Africa etc..

    If high value soccer knees can cut and run on it, and places like philly, GB, and denver can use it, it can be used in Landover.

  54. Brady has a bad shoulder? Rothlesburger also? Manning played with that bad neck a couple years ago just to name a few, you are hypocrites! Fact: not one nfl coach would’ve pulled rg3! Only place to argue would be continuing with rollout a and running, shudda kept him in pocket! These are men! And since it wasn’t a concussion, had a clear mind to make his own determination! As cousins stunk it up when he went in, was a good choice!

  55. I would love to see everyone saying the field should have been minted better grow grass in December there. Remember, that is the original field from the preseason, it hosted 13 games this season. Don’t blame the grounds crew, blame whoever didn’t want it resoded. A hybrid field is definitely the way to go but the bashing of the grounds crew needs to stop. I can promise you, no one coil have done anything to help that field but resod and the groundskeeper doesn’t get the final say in that, he only recommends it.

  56. Yeah 3 ACLs is correct reporting, due to the field? Nope Adrian had Dejon Gomes go THROUGH his knee sideways. Clemons( get better Cris) was engaged with a blocker and RG was hurt hitting the ground twisting. Get it right or leave your opinion out.

  57. benacci says: Jan 9, 2013 10:03 AM

    What type of field does the Giants/Jets use? I don’t remember ever seeing it in bad shape, and it has a game there almost every week during season right?

    Metlife uses FieldTurf. The old stadium originally used Astroturf, they switched to grass in 2000, then to FieldTurf in ’03.

  58. Weren’t the Redskins the last NFL team to integrate?

    Seems as if resistance to needed change is ingrained.

  59. seattlecoug says:
    Jan 9, 2013 10:58 AM
    I like how one of the arguments is “if they put in Field Turf, European soccer players won’t come and play over here…..” — who cares? Soccer is stupid anyway. Stay in Europe and play for 90 minutes to a “nil-nil” draw. Soccer is lame.

    Over 3.5 billion fans, that’s who cares.

  60. Give me a break RG3 is not the most important player since Sammy Baugh! What about John Riggins or Joe Theisman (who by the way suffered a way uglier injury) In fact RG3 has a long way to go catch the most famous Washington Redskin, that being Vince Lombardi, if the Coach would have had more time the Redskins would be held in the same regard as the Packers for the number of NFL and Superbowl titles they would have.

  61. That would all be a great idea… except for the fact that artificial surfaces have much higher incidences of ankle and knee injuries than natural surfaces.

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