By Rock Mamola–
Ted Phillips is all about his grass.
In an exclusive one on one with the Chicago Tribune’s Dan Pompei (a regular guest on The Mully And Hanley Show on WSCR), Bears President Ted Phillips had a lot to say about a wide range of topics. Answering questions on everything from the current NFL labor strife to a possible extension of General Manager Jerry Angelo. However one particular answer caught my eye on what could be the most debated topic around the NFL when it comes to the Chicago Bears.
The grass at Solider Field.
Phillips was asked if the Bears would consider replacing the grass at Soldier Field with an infill surface which is commonly used in today’s outdoor NFL stadiums.
“We won’t do that. We’ve had great success at Soldier Field in December and January. The grass field there will never be top-notch late in the season, but it’s more of a perception issue than a real negative issue. The players know how to play on it, and frankly, it’s been part of our home-field advantage.”
More perception than a negative issue?
The perception of NFL players like Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings when he said of Solider Field’s turf: “It’s rough. It’s probably one of the worst, probably the worst in the league.”
Jennings’ comments only added fuel to the fire caused by a NFLPA survey of 1,619 players who ranked Solider Field the third-worst natural grass field in the NFL, only being Oakland Coliseum and Heinz Field.
So why no consideration to remove the grass to an infill turf?
“The tendency in the studies I’ve seen is that there is too high of an incidence of ankle and knee injuries on infill surfaces versus grass. We have too many millions of dollars tied up in our players to risk that right now.”
Phillips is right in his assertion about a higher risk of injury on synthetic surfaces over grass. A May, 2008 report from the New Jersey Education Association reveals a five year prospective study showed a 10% higher risk of injury among high school teams when they played on a synthetic surface than when playing on grass surface.
Phillips is also correct on the fact that the grass surface gives the Bears a home field advantage outside the fans themselves. Since the 1988 season when Solider Field grass was installed, the Bears have a record of 39-21 at Soldier Field in the months of December and January.
So why the constant complaining about the turf at Soldier Field? Especially when in the same NFLPA survey where 39 Bears players were surveyed, only eight of them considered the field conditions better than “fair”?
Could it be that the pampered players of the NFL just cannot handle a surface that they are not going to see in many stadiums around the rest of the NFL?
While the grass at Soldier Field may not look that great on your HDTV at home and could be career ending with one slip of the foot, both teams have to play on it. The Chicago Bears have been organized as a team built on speed and agility, so you would think that the field does not play into their favor. However Lovie Smith teams are 16-8 in the months of December and January at Soldier Field.
Speed kills on grass at Soldier Field under Lovie Smith.
So the next time the national media creates the conversation or another opponent complains his away white jersey might get stained cause of an unexpected slip at the lakefront….
Bear Nation should rise up and tell em to “kiss our grass.”
John “Rock” Mamola is the Host of The Rock Report (Fridays at 10pm (cst))
You can follow Rock at twitter.com/rockmamola