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Monday, March 21, 2011
The advantage of grass at Soldier Field

By Kevin Seifert

NEW ORLEANS -- By now, you've probably seen the extensive explanation that Chicago Bears president Ted Phillips has given for maintaining the grass surface at Soldier Field. (If not, be sure to check out Dan Pompei's report in the Chicago Tribune.)

I'm planning to do a more extensive look at the issue later this offseason -- chances are, we'll have plenty of time for it -- but for now I want to hear your thoughts on it. Already, I've gotten a number of responses similar to this one from Kevin (no relation) of Wisconsin:
The Bears not replacing the grass with field turf is a joke. The Packers had success on grass but put in field turf and like it much better. It holds up a lot more and you do not play on frozen mud and the injury risk to the players is less. To me the Bears are just being cheap and taking a risk with players health.

There are a number of layers to this issue. Player safety is one, but the Bears would argue that grass is safer than any version of artificial turf. Money is also an issue, but the fact is the Bears wouldn't have to pay for a turf conversion if it ever happened. The Chicago Park District would.

In winning the NFC North last season, the Bears were 6-4 at Soldier Field, including playoff games. They also were the healthiest team in the division. Coincidence? Or can the Bears realistically attribute part of their success to the home-field advantage of the Soldier Field turf? That's the crux of what I want to hear from you.

For some further background, check out our January post on the issue. And, for your convenience, here is what Phillips told Pompei:
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. If the time ever comes that the technology gives us an infill surface that plays like grass, and more importantly the studies about lower-extremity injuries show there are not quite the discrepancies that they show now, we'll consider making a switch at that time. I don't know that time will ever come. I admit there is no completely conclusive study that's been done, but 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.