The weather, in the 70s Wednesday for their first Super Bowl practice in Arizona, didn’t hurt their initial impression either, but a handful of Patriots said the fields were some of the best they've played on.
“The grass is like perfect,” Patriots running back James White said. “Almost looks like turf from a distance.”
New England was also pleased with the design of the Cardinals’ practice facility, which has three practice fields -- two outdoor and one in a bubble -- located directly outside the locker room, weight room and cafeteria.
By comparison, the Patriots’ practice fields are about “a couple hundred yards” away, cornerback Logan Ryan said, which made him appreciate having everything in one central area even more. The Patriots recently renovated their facilities and Ryan said the Cardinals’ stack up.
“Here is just as good, but I feel like other than the meeting rooms, the weight room’s right next to the cafeteria, it’s all so close,” he said. “So for what we’re here for, to get in and get out, it’s pretty effective.”
Tackle Nate Solder felt the locker room was "spacious." White said he liked the brick inside the building.
Running back Jonas Gray said the design of the Cardinals’ facilities fit in with its geographical location in the country.
“I thought they were cool,” he said. “They’re different. I think a lot of the West Coast facilities are similar to that. They got that kinda outdoor feel to it. All the structures are low. Kinda reminds me a little bit of how San Diego was. We didn’t see their facilities but how their visitor’s locker room was built and I like how everything’s close to each other. It’s all convenient in terms of walking and getting to a place.”
But it was the fields that really caught the Patriots’ attention.
They haven’t played on soft grass in months because their fields in Foxboro have been frozen.
“Fields were awesome,” Gray said. “And grass … beautiful grass, man. We were flying around on it, too. Hopefully we didn’t scuff it up too much.”
Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui seconded Gray’s opinion that the fields were “awesome.”
For most of the Patriots, their preference is to play on grass, even if the game is slowed down a bit, Ryan said. It’s also easier on the legs and joints, as Hoomanawanui has experienced.
“In the beginning of my career I couldn’t really tell,” he said. “In my fifth year, you can definitely tell the days you’ve been on the grass fields compared to the turf.”
Like the Cardinals’ practice fields, the University of Phoenix Stadium turf, site of Super Bowl XLVI, is also grass. The Patriots will experiment with which cleats work best for Sunday during the three practices leading up to the Super Bowl.
“There’s not as much pounding when you’re changing direction,” Ryan said. “And when you practice at the tempo we practice at you’re always running around.”