NFL needs to address crappy field conditions

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At a time when much of the media’s focus justifiably remains on the league’s shoddy efforts to protect spouses, wives, and girlfriends from violence committed by NFL players, there needs to be more focus on the efforts of the NFL to protect players from unnecessary injuries arising from horrible field conditions.

It’s been a problem for years, with some teams insisting on keeping grass playing surfaces because they look better on TV.  So what if they create avoidable safety hazards for players?

The issue came up twice last week. In Denver, the Broncos’ field looked like Centre Court at Wimbledon during the men’s final.  The team said that, despite the noticeable areas where grass wasn’t where it was supposed to be, the field was fine.

That’s not what Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said after Seattle played there in the preseason.

“I can’t wait to get back to Seattle because this field was awful,” Baldwin said.  “I don’t know if you guys noticed, but the receivers and tight ends were slipping all over the place. This field is terrible.”

In Houston, Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney tore a meniscus on a fairly routine leap-and-landing at NRG Stadium.  Teammate D.J. Swearinger attributed the injury to the much-maligned (but still unchanged) grass field.

“He told me on the field when it happened, he was just like, ‘Bro, I just jumped, came down and hit one of the holes on the field,’” Swearinger said. “There are a few holes in the grass, so he said he thought he stepped on one of those holes and got hurt.”

Former Patriots receiver Wes Welker suffered a non-contact ACL tear on that same field during a meaningless Week 17 game in January 2010.  Years before that, another former Patriots player realized that the field needs plenty of work.

“The turf at [NRG Stadium] is the worst in the league,” NBC’s Rodney Harrison told me in the wake of Swearinger’s comments.  “In the Super Bowl, we were slipping and sliding all over the place.  We had a couple of opportunities to make plays and we slid past it.  I also hurt my groin sliding on that garbage field.”

Harrison said the stadium is beautiful, but the “field conditions were terrible.”  He said that the turf was “one of the worst I’ve experienced in my 15-year career.”

So how does the NFL allow the field to continue to be in that type of condition?  How does owner Bob McNair not insist that his players be more protected against avoidable injury?

Setting aside for now the reality that, if players were getting concussions due to the field conditions the problem would have been solved several years ago, owners should want the fields to be as close to perfect as possible, because the owners have made a huge investment in the men who play on those fields.

Even without the investment, these players despite the numbers and pads and helmets are human beings, supposedly members of a broader football family.  In a game filled with unavoidable safety risks, shouldn’t every team want to ensure that these men aren’t being exposed to additional risks unnecessarily?

UPDATE 2:43 p.m. ET:  For Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, the team’s tray system was removed for a continuous sod system.  Either way, the complaints about the playing surface there have been consistent, and ignored.

103 responses to “NFL needs to address crappy field conditions

  1. I would hope that the reality of losing your #1 overall pick for almost half of the season due to the HOME turf would create an impetus to fix the situation…hope. I have no idea what an artificial field costs, but it can’t be as much as the even a couple of the players who are playing on it.

  2. Good lord…you mean they are playing on GRASS?

    LET’S CALL FOR A CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION OF THIS ATROCITY!

    Seriously, guys…your complaint is they are playing on grass?

  3. I’d be more interested if there was a study done with some actual stats that showed natural grass fields have produced an abundance of more injuries than artificial turf. As a matter of fact, wasn’t it just a few years ago when people attributed artificial turf to causing more knee injuries and shortening careers, as compared to natural grass?

  4. The NFL is a greed-driven, cold calculating, non-profit entity who’s sole reason for existence is PROFIT. They are all about nickle and diming every penny to MAXIMIZE PROFIT, regardless of how many players are loss in the process. They are replaceable pieces.

    In a league where halftime entertainers actually PAY TO PLAY and advertisers fight for the right to pay millions for 30 seconds spots, properly grassing playing surfaces would cost too much.

    Is it domestic violence that the NFL keeps beating us and we keep coming back for more?

  5. I don’t understand how the Texans are valued at 1.17 BILLION dollars, and play on a field comparable to a low funded high school. Mr. McNair needs to get with the program. I bet he’ll feel dumb as hell if we lose JJ Watt to a knee injury for the year, due to subpar turf conditions.

  6. baddegg says: Sep 12, 2014 11:07 AM

    Good lord…you mean they are playing on GRASS?

    LET’S CALL FOR A CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION OF THIS ATROCITY!

    Seriously, guys…your complaint is they are playing on grass?

    ==============================

    Could you possibly be any more stupid? God I hope you don’t run anything of any significance that affects the rest of us.

    Natural grass is actually not the best surface upon which to play. It varies widely based on type, location, weather, etc. It can be terrible uneven and unstable. And where you have world class athletes running at top speed and getting hit, even small imperfections can end careers.

    But you probably think they should play in the local muddy abandoned lot and that would be “manly”.

    Go away. You are not wanted in a society of people that can actually think.

  7. This site is quickly becoming a platform upon which the same few journalists write pejorative and cantankerous articles as to why it is the NFL just plain sucks. The irony is, the NFL made Florio, not the other way around.

  8. As a Bears fan how could you leave Soldier Field off the list!? The Chicago parks department has a hard time even keeping the field watered properly. Maybe they need to import a corn farmer from lower in the state… Gotta love corrupt city politics that never get anything done yet still taking money that the rest of the state needs!

  9. Whaa, crybabies. I have Coached HS Football for over 22 years and we are excited when we even see more grass than dirt on a field. Gimme a break says me and every NFL player from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

  10. If Lambeau Field can be green in December then any field can be perfect in September. I know they use a mix of grass and artificial, but still.

  11. The NFL can’t even handle serious scandal correctly, so I can’t see them handling a mundane issue like playing surface concerns correctly.

    But boy, they can negotiate great monopoly-style deals with DirecTV, can’t they?

  12. Interesting that you didn’t mention the $1.2 billion stadium that has had to replace its field twice in the last month…don’t let that bias show too obviously…

  13. What happened to personal responsibility? You don’t want to be concussed, dot let them hit ya. You’re running faster on grass than your body can handle, then don’t run that fast.

  14. Nobody has millions invested in your crappy HS team or players from the 60s,70s, and 80s, who probably can’t even type properly anymore. Enjoy talking about how “tough” you were when you can’t get out of bed properly.

  15. Don’t change it! If they go from grass to anything else and I have to view some crappy field on tv. WHICH IS WHY I WATCH NFL GAMES! I will never watch one again!!!

    This message is brought to you by
    Sarcasm, Passively bashing you since the 1900’s.

  16. Yeah, I guess the name of sports teams really isn’t something to lose our minds over now is it? Funny how the media moves on to things that actually are life changing.

  17. I think we need more information, as an earlier commenter made. Real information, based on stats, that also take inconsideration amount of times player had previously been injured. Some players are just injury prone, some complaints could be real. We need more than just ” he said, she said ” evidence.

  18. “Seriously, guys…your complaint is they are playing on grass?”

    No. The complaint is that they are NOT playing on grass. Where the grass should be nice and lush and good for playing football, they are instead seeing stadiums that have what amounts to green dirt. Ever tried to play football on a baseball diamond? it’s not fun. And the Raiders do it all the time.

    There really should be some kind of standard for these fields.

  19. Poor football players have to play in rain and snow and ice and heat. I think field conditions are one oif the things that make football great, sometimes the field is slick and it makes you adjust what you do. I personally hate the fake stuff. All games should be on natural grass. More and more I like watching college games because it seems more teams play on grass.

  20. I don’t think having grass is the problem as much as the fact many fields aren’t kept up properly. I like having different conditions but if they can prove the injuries are 100% or mostly attributed to the bad conditions, then I think they should upgrade the fields. There are still plenty of injuries despite the rules from Goodell and fake grass so if this is causing more than there should be, I’m all for it Florio!

  21. I think when the Chicago Park District evaluated the costs of re-sodding the field multiple times per season vs. installing a system like they use at Lambeau (which, even as a Bears fan, I have to admit looks great even in January), and the payback was under 2 years. It combines natural grass and synthetic fibers to keep it green, but still maintain some of the softness of grass. Also ensures more of a uniform surface.

    The problem is basically weather-driven. Northern cities are never going to be able to keep grass in good shape into the winter, and southern states are going to have to waterlog the grass in the late summer to keep it from dying, which creates another set of problems with settling and shifting of soil.
    Switching to some sort of hybrid or artificial surface is the right way to go in the long run. I’m sure someone out there can come up with a color of FieldTurf that looks more like natural grass. I think the studies have not definitively proven any higher risk of injury on truf vs. grass, especially since AstroTurf was replaced by FieldTurf. I would love to have the game decided by the athletes on the field, and not the conditions of the field.

  22. kerzondax says:
    Sep 12, 2014 11:12 AM

    Natural grass is actually not the best surface upon which to play. It varies widely based on type, location, weather, etc. It can be terrible uneven and unstable. And where you have world class athletes running at top speed and getting hit, even small imperfections can end careers.
    ___________________________________
    I contend that artificial surfaces are far more dangerous to players safety and careers then grass.

    .

  23. Soccer is played on grass. Hardly hear of soft tissue injuries. Has nothing to do with field. Look at the practice/off season program limitations in the new CBA.

  24. Every field in all NFL stadiums should be field turf. That way everyone plays on the same surface so that field conditions are mostly taken out of why a team has had a poor performance. If it was up to me all stadiums would have retractable roofs .
    Go Lions

  25. Teams cannot just rely on their stadiums to be used for football. In cities that the taxpayers paid for, other entities get to use the stadium such as MLS teams, college and high school teams and other events. Stadiums do not sit idle between NFL football games – thus the wear and tear on the field. And then, you throw in a year where there is more than usual moisture and the field takes a toll. Denver is not known for consistently having a bad field its just one of those years.

  26. All we need is Bill Polian, Peyton Manning, and Tony Dungy to complain and cry about the grass field and the NFL will make them all change it, right? After all, that is the reason the Pats have field turf. The NFL made them change it. And it was a far better surface than what you find in Oakland, Houston, Chicago, Green Bay, Kansas City, you get the idea…

  27. Having a B.A. in turf grass science and 0ver 8 years of maintaining private golf courses, some of these arguments are comical. Denver is a harsh climate to grow the type of grass needed to withstand the wear and tear of a football season. The grasses that are best suited for that environment do not hold up well to high traffic. Green Bay does a magnificent job with their field and I believe they have a sub ground heating system to help there field grow. Houston is a little concerning, I’m sure a lot of it comes down to their dome and the amount of sunlight the actual field gets. Some people say to sod them after every game. This is very costly and even more dangerous because of the turf not having enough time to root in thus moving from under your feet. Some fields should convert to synthetic turf but not all. If you can have a natural field, then that’s the way to go in my opinion. Otherwise Denver should consult Green Bay.

  28. Haven’t we seen MORE injuries since teams went away from natural playing surfaces and went with the field turf??

  29. You guys are advocating for artificial turf? Wow.

    The newer stuff is better then the old astroturf that caused so many blown out knees, but the answer isn’t fake grass, it’s better real grass.

    Well cared for grass is still #1.

  30. Let’s just say Mark Cuban may have seen the writing on the wall. I love the game of football but I’m hating the NFL & it’s owners more & more by the day. Between Goodell, the over-officiating, the insane fines on players for tackling too hard, & the owners relentless greed plus the fact that they’re still supporting Goodell??? I truly feel like puking.

  31. ‘You guys are advocating for artificial turf? Wow.

    The newer stuff is better then the old astroturf that caused so many blown out knees, but the answer isn’t fake grass, it’s better real grass.

    Well cared for grass is still #1.’

    jmc,

    I couldn’t agree more.

  32. Even in an article about crappy field conditions, Florio can’t resist bringing up domestic violence.

    I appreciate finally seeing an article related to football, but in the future try to focus the entire article on football only.

  33. Like all industries, there are superstars at everything. Same with turf. Some guys are unreal at turf maintenance. Any teams with sub-par turf (Houston / Denver / Washington) should look at upgrading their turf manager.

  34. ‘Even without the investment, these players despite the numbers and pads and helmets are human beings, supposedly members of a broader football family. In a game filled with unavoidable safety risks, shouldn’t every team want to ensure that these men aren’t being exposed to additional risks unnecessarily?’

    Human beings??? Ha!!! You’re talking about the NFL owners & Goodell. Does Jerry Jones like human to you? He looks like a zombie from ‘The Walking Dead.’ They’re soulless pigs & eventually pigs get slaughtered. Sad but true.

  35. It’s not about grass vs. turf. It is because there are several squares placed down each game and taken up after the game. There are grooves (holes) between each square, which is what caused Clowney’s injury. Plenty of other stadiums use even grass without taking it up after sports events, even though they host concerts and other shows. It’s called being too cheap to want to care for the grass even with other non-sports events using the surface and potentially killing some of the grass. They’d rather use this square pod philosophy, than to constantly care for the grass year round like they do at Yankee Stadium and Sun Life Stadium, two of the major venues that host plenty of non-sporting events year round.

  36. The problem isn’t that it is natural grass. The problem is that it is on trays so that they can move it out whenever some other function wants to use the stadium.

  37. McNair is too busy spending his money on right wing politics rather than investing in a suitable playing surface for his negro players.

  38. illiniftw says:
    Sep 12, 2014 11:14 AM
    As a Bears fan how could you leave Soldier Field off the list!? The Chicago parks department has a hard time even keeping the field watered properly. Maybe they need to import a corn farmer from lower in the state… Gotta love corrupt city politics that never get anything done yet still taking money that the rest of the state needs!

    ________________________________

    Because the field just looks bad. People aren’t getting hurt at the rate that they describe above.

  39. trollingpatsfan says:
    Sep 12, 2014 11:11 AM
    Man, all this site and football fans in general do now is complain complain complain. What happened to us?

    We became a liberal country.

  40. skittlesareyum says: Sep 12, 2014 11:15 AM

    If Lambeau Field can be green in December then any field can be perfect in September. I know they use a mix of grass and artificial, but still.

    —————————————-

    Green paint on permafrost doesn’t count

  41. The problem with NRG is not the grass but the pallets that they move in and out of the stadium for different events. The issue is gaps where they are hooked together. They need to do a better job…..

  42. The real issue is the stadiums keep allowing high school football & soccer games on the field within days of an NFL game. They tear up the field & there isn’t enough time to get it back to playing shape before the pros get on it.

  43. I remember reading a few years ago that it costs about $30k to re-sod a football field.

    Considering how profitable the NFL has been, I don’t see why they couldn’t do that after every game, if necessary. Do it 10 times a season and it’s still less than paying one guy the rookie minimum.

  44. the NFL brought in its own field for the superbowl. that was not the texans field. so harrison’s complaint should be with the nfl and its field, not the Texans.

  45. On the local news here in Maryland prior to last nights game John Harbaugh was complaining about the field conditions at M&T, M&T has field turf. He said there was to much rubber on the field. Rubber! Harbaugh said they were going to water the field more to knock the rubber down and hopefully improve the field conditions.

    So it doesn’t matter what surface teams are playing on, it matters how those surfaces are taken care of.

    Having said all that, field turf is a joke. 3 years ago the University of Maryland installed field turf at their stadium. The following football season the Terps were forced to start their 4th string QB (who was a 2nd string LB) because the 3 QB’s in front of him went down with leg injuries. All 3 QB’s were hurt on the new turf field. Also, there is a reason why when Premier League soccer teams come to the U.S. they won’t play on turf fields, only grass.

    Natural grass is the only surface football should be played on. That hybrid stuff Green Bay has is ok too. Don’t blame natural grass, blame the yahoo’s that are suppose to maintain it.

  46. Speaking of concussions, don’t natural turf fields help prevent concussions because they are softer than the field turf? I remember when players were complaining when teams got rid of the natural grass to the artificial fields.

  47. Bud Adams cancelled a meaningless pre-season game at the Astrodome due to horrendeous astroturf conditions. You would hope that history will repeat itself if the conditions are right.

  48. Could not agree more with @baddegg , I can’t believe it’s gotten to this point where we have to “nerf” the whole field and grass is considered an inhumane playing field.

  49. kerzondax says:
    Sep 12, 2014 11:12 AM
    baddegg says: Sep 12, 2014 11:07 AM

    Good lord…you mean they are playing on GRASS?

    LET’S CALL FOR A CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION OF THIS ATROCITY!

    Seriously, guys…your complaint is they are playing on grass?

    ==============================

    Could you possibly be any more stupid? God I hope you don’t run anything of any significance that affects the rest of us.

    Natural grass is actually not the best surface upon which to play. It varies widely based on type, location, weather, etc. It can be terrible uneven and unstable. And where you have world class athletes running at top speed and getting hit, even small imperfections can end careers.

    But you probably think they should play in the local muddy abandoned lot and that would be “manly”.

    Go away. You are not wanted in a society of people that can actually think.

    41 144

    ——————-

    Why, yes, I *could* be more stupid. But I’ll leave that for another time.

    Other than that, actually, believe it or not, I’m well aware of the dangers of grass. I’m a Skins fan who saw RGIII tear his knee up on that disaster in Fed Ex. So you are not dropping any new knowledge on me, my friend.

    But, I’m also aware of the dangers of football — that playing it will get you hurt. I’d be curious to know: does your Big Brain think we should outlaw football as well? Since you are smarter than the rest of us and you would make every decision possible to prevent injury — you would draw the line no where?

    No? Well, then that’s my point.

    My point is: there are lots of dangerous things in football. We accept some of them. We outlaw some of them. I’m saying, don’t outlaw grass. Now, what you can do is mandate what condition that grass field must be maintained. That would be an intelligent position.

    Let me repeat if you don’t get it. Don’t outlaw grass. Just impose standards on how it must be maintained. Do you understand?

    It’s fine if you want to disagree with me, btw…I’m a big boy and can take it. But I will just say that generally people who try to win an argument by calling other people stupid generally don’t really have intelligent facts on their site. That’s why with their limited arguments and intelligence they typically resort to name calling.

  50. Marshawn Lunch says:
    Sep 12, 2014 11:19 AM
    “Seriously, guys…your complaint is they are playing on grass?”

    No. The complaint is that they are NOT playing on grass. Where the grass should be nice and lush and good for playing football, they are instead seeing stadiums that have what amounts to green dirt. Ever tried to play football on a baseball diamond? it’s not fun. And the Raiders do it all the time.

    There really should be some kind of standard for these fields.

    —————

    Now this I do agree with.

  51. Lambeau Field has a great playing surface year round. They have a mix of natural and artificial grass that’s warmed from below. The weather conditions there are harsh and they never have the field problems that grass fields like Chicago and Pittsburgh do.

  52. Man…

    Okay, so how is it that Houston can’t have a high quality grass field?

    Or really, any NFL team in September?

    I understand that come November in cities like Boston and Chicago, everything starts to die. I get why those fields get beat up by late season and you can’t really grow new grass or water the field due to temperatures. I thought it made sense for the Patriots to put an artificial surface down about five years back.

    But in September???

    Last weekend, within a 48-hour period, Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami hosted an international soccer match, a University of Miami game, and a Dolphins game. Not only did the field hold up visually all the way to the end, there was no apparent slippage or tearing of the grass. It is probably true that Miami has the best growing conditions of any NFL city, but it is also a reflection of the team investing in state of the art drainage systems and maintenance crews. From the stadium website:

    “Sun Life Stadium is equipped with a Prescription Athletic Turf (PAT) system which provides draining for its natural grass. It has an advanced mechanical drainage system that provides a firm, dry playing surface within a half-hour after as much as a three-inch per hour rainfall. Over the years, the Stadium’s ground crews have been celebrated for providing one of the best playing surfaces in football.”

    If you are going to have grass, invest in it. That is even more important in parts of the country where the weather turns during the season. I don’t understand at all how Houston has issues… unless it is somebody being cheap about field.

  53. “At a time when much of the media’s focus justifiably remains on the league’s shoddy efforts to protect spouses, wives, and girlfriends from violence committed by NFL players,..”

    This sentence is absurd in the extreme. Since when did it become the NFL’s job to protect people that are not employed by an NFL team? Are NFL players so dangerous that the NFL must protect the rest of mankind from them? No private business in the world has the responsibility of protecting people from their employees. The NFL’s job is not to protect spouses. Our laws and the police who enforce the laws protect spouses, partners, neighbors, fans, pets, etc from violence committed by NFL players. The NFL’s job is to protect the brand from damage done when an NFL player breaks the law. The NFL’s job is to institute penalties so severe that players, coaches, owners, or any other employee will suffer severe consequences when they break the law.

  54. I grew up, and I’ll assume many of you did, with a football and a vacant area to play in. The turf was the same for both sides. There was no whining and games only got called short because Mom had supper ready. Play Ball!!

  55. But you folks forget that the owners and nfl execs are rich, so these rules do not apply to them.

    In The US injustice system only the poor have to obey the letter of the law, and of course get no justice.

    How about the Raiders with a dirt infield, or soldier field where players sink past their ankles, or that team with a racial slur for a name, whose field is a swimming pool when it rains. Double standards existed for decades!!!!

  56. I’ve been in favor of mandating a common playing surface for the NFL for some time. Yes, bad grass can increase injuries. But I don’t know that the data supports the conclusion that grass in general causes more injuries. That said, the league is so competitive and involves so much money that I can’t believe there is such a wide array of field conditions which end up affecting the outcome of games.

    Field Turf costs around $2,000,000 from my understanding. It lasts 20 years, and requires very little maintenance. Fields using it can accommodate 3-4 times the number of sports and other events. Weather barely affects it. It always looks good. Come to Philadelphia in December and tell me how our field looks (and The Linc is one of the best grass fields in the NFL).

  57. That Miami vs Pittburgh game where it was a mud hole by the 2nd quarter was the worst and best game ever. The punt stuck 3/4 of the ball into the mud. Almost lost that ball.

    Seriously, the NFL likes to keep history and tradition on all the wrong things. Get Field-turf.

  58. Unless the team actually owns the stadium, they probably do not have direct control over the conditions of the facility. True, they may have great leverage as the main tenant, but they cannot directly fire or hire the personnel who are responsible for the condition of the facility.

  59. “…these players despite the numbers and pads and helmets are human beings, supposedly members of a broader football family.”

    LOL, says Roger Goodell.

  60. not sure you know what you are talking about, Field Turf is my less safe than actual Turf, staff infections, knees getting blown out, concussions etc, actual sodded fields or non-pallet fields are the safest playing surface for professional athletes

  61. I’m conflicted when I see stories such as as this one. I’m a purist who believes football should only be played on grass. I’m on a quest to see at least 500 NFL games and will only attend ones played on a natural surface. Sunday’s Seahawks-Chargers game will be number 414 for me.

    That said, if teams whose venues have grass fields aren’t willing to properly maintain them, I’d rather they switch to an artificial surface. Player safety must always be of paramount importance. I just hope the NFL doesn’t become like the CFL, where all the games are played on carpet. Thankfully, I got to see an Eskimos game in Edmonton before the team removed its tundra. I’d like to say it was frozen for effect, but the game was played in June.

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