Friday, November 22, 2013

Time to kick the grass?

“Wow, look at those dirty uniforms.”

My 8-year-old son, Ty, said those words to me Sunday as we watched his Bears claw their way through the mud to a 23-20 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Associated Press
It didn’t occur to me until a little later that Ty, who at the moment is the most casual of casual sports fan, has not seen much dirt and grass stain on football uniforms. He’s accustomed to looking at the TV screen and seeing nice, clean unis on teams playing on unnatural playing surfaces.

If you saw the game, you know the field was a mess after a torrential rainstorm bombarded Soldier Field, causing a nearly two-hour delay. And afterward, as always happens when we have a game played on a less-than perfect field, the Bears organization fielded questions about the possibility of installing artificial turf at Soldier Field.

However, Bears’ team president Ted Phillips wasn’t having it, saying this week on ESPN 1000:  

“I've been with the Bears for 30 years and this was the first and only time I ever remember having a storm like that blow in during a game where you had to relocate fans. To me, that's not a reason to go to field turf. You can't make a knee-jerk decision. You can't do that. It's a health and safety concern. We're still not at the point where we feel that artificial surfaces play as well, or even as close to grass. 

“It's hard enough. Look at the kind of injuries we've had this year. I'm not blaming it on any kinds of surfaces, necessarily, but why go to the extra risk of injuries when you see the results of medical surveys that indicate that the risk of lower-leg injuries is significantly higher than artificial surfaces. 

“Until that time comes when it gets to be a little closer to how grass plays, I wouldn't see us changing.” 

I’m all for keeping natural grass at Soldier Field, Fed Ex Field and all the other stadiums that refuse to give in and play on the fake stuff. However, if safety is or becomes an issue, holdouts like the Bears, Redskins, Steelers and Titans may want to re-think their positions on keeping their playing surfaces old school.

ESPN Chicago reports that all four lower-leg injuries suffered by Bears players in 2013 have come on natural grass. Now, did the natural grass play a role in those injuries or is it a coincidence? I don’t know.

However, I do know that teams make an incredible investment in players these days – look at the injury Robert Griffith III suffered on a sloppy track in January. So maybe, just maybe, it’s time to retire the dirty uniforms to our memories and old NFL Films footage.

Ty and I think that stinks, but we’ll suck it up and be men about it. 

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