Before the ball is kicked off on Sunday, every element of the NFC Championship game will be analyzed over and over again. And as it has before this season, the turf at Soldier Field is becoming a topic.
As far as Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings is concerned, the most challenging thing about the Chicago Bears’ home-field advantage might be the field itself.
Jennings isn’t a fan of the grass at Soldier Field, and wasn’t afraid to say so going into Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Bears.
“It’s rough,” Jennings said Monday. “It’s probably one of the worst – probably the worst – in the league.”
Jennings noticed Seattle receivers slipping as chunks of the field came up during the Seahawks’ playoff loss in the snow at Chicago, and said the Packers will have to pay close attention to their footing Sunday.
“You have to go out before the game, pregame, and kind of get a feel of what you’re working with, what you’re dealing with, get your footing, because that’s going to play a huge, huge role in the game,” Jennings said. “But you can’t allow that to affect the way you play.”
NFL officials are expected to monitor the situation and work with the stadium’s field manager during the week, taking action if necessary – although it’s not clear what could be done to improve conditions on short notice, as the field recently was re-sodded.
Even Bears players have expressed displeasure with the often-sloppy surface, including quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Brian Urlacher.
“It’s the middle of January in Chicago,” Bears tight end Greg Olsen said. “We’ve had a lot of snow, cold, whatnot. You don’t have to be a scientist to know grass doesn’t grow in these conditions. So they’ve tried to maintain it the best you can. Obviously, yesterday it snowed pretty much throughout the game. That makes it wet. … By the end of the game, it’s sloppy and chopped up. It is what it is.”
And Soldier Field didn’t provide a pronounced advantage for the home team this season. Chicago was 5-3 at home during the regular season – including a blowout loss to New England in snowy conditions – and 6-2 on the road.
“It’s not like anyone is going to have an advantage,” Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk said.
The Packers obviously are used to playing outdoors in poor conditions as well, but Lambeau Field has a hybrid natural/synthetic turf blend that has held up well in bad weather.
Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said he isn’t worried.
“Chicago’s field has always been like that,” Williams said. “So it’s nothing different. It’s something that we’re prepared for. And you’ve just got to have the right cleats or whatever. It shouldn’t really be a problem.”
AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman contributed to this report from Lake Forest, Ill.
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