Tiff over turf at Soldier Field

December 10, 2010 3:13:52 PM PST
A turf war has erupted over the slippery sod at Soldier Field, after Jay Cutler ranked it among the worst in the league.The Chicago Park District defended its turf Friday.

The Soldier Field sod is brand new - not because the Patriots are coming on Sunday, and not because of what Cutler, the Bears' quarterback, said Wednesday.

"The turf is what it is. With our speed we'd like to get something a little bit tighter, but you know we probably have one of the worst fields in the league at this point," Cutler said.

Ouch. One of the worst fields in the NFL?

"It's unfortunate. You hate to hear comments like that because there's a strong commitment by the city, the Chicago Park District, the management here at Soldier Field to keep this as one of the best fields in the NFL," said Soldier Field General Manager Tim LeFevour.

The people who own and maintain the turf here like Jay Cutler a lot, but they do not like what he said.

"I have no problem with Jay Cutler," said Soldier Field groundskeeper John Nolan. "It's not the first time we've had player criticisms out here."

The head groundskeeper says, You know, this is grass growing in a northern climate - rain, cold, snow. Stuff happens - like this - Vick back to pass - finds Jason Avant, and whoa. There's a nasty divot.

Players lost their footing a number of times in the Bears-Eagles game, but it seemed to plague the Eagles more, and they come from one of the three other northern cities that still have natural grass fields.

"We do the best that possibly can be done with what we have," said Nolan. "It is what it is. Both teams are on the same field.

The park district re-sods Soldier field at minimum three times each year, hosts on average three non-Bear football games each season, and is not permitted to hold any on-field event within five days of a home game.

"We read comments that the vast majority of players want to keep it a natural grass field, but when you have people like Cutler, Briggs making comments that they're concerned about the field, it's probably the best solution to go back to a synthetic field," said LeFevour.

Re-sodding Soldier Field three times a season costs over $400,000 a year, which is one of the reasons the park district has suggested going to the newest generation of artificial turf. Green Bay installed that turf three seasons ago.

The Bears have not closed the door on the turf possibility, but they say that NFL turf-related injuries remain lower on natural surfaces than artificial ones, so at this point, sod it remains.

As an organization, the Bears say they feel Soldier Field has played well this year. Of course, some of the players seem to disagree.


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