Monday, August 8, 2011
Bears not budging on Soldier Field turf
By Kevin Seifert
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- On Saturday, we broached the idea of converting Soldier Field's playing field to an artificial surface. On Monday, Bears chairman George McCaskey made clear that it ain't happening -- at least not anytime soon.
Speaking to reporters here at Bears training camp, McCaskey pledged to take a more active role in monitoring the condition of the grass field. But you're going to be disappointed if you thought that the cancellation of last Friday's Family Night practice would spur a more dramatic reaction.
"Our primary concern is player safety," McCaskey said. "We want to prolong careers. We want our guys to be available on a week-to-week basis. The evaluation is ongoing. Every year we take a look at it. Our considered opinion is that right now, the best surface for our team, primarily considering player safety, is a natural grass field."
In a vacuum, that is always the case. Most players would tell you the same thing, even though middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has been publicly advocating for a conversion all summer. The real question is whether sub-par grass is safer than artificial turf.
In 2006, the New England Patriots opted for an emergency conversion that took 11 days at Gillette Stadium. The Bears, on the other hand, are passing on that option and instead will take efforts to improve. "The [Chicago] Park District has already said it was a miscalculation on their part and they need to do a better job. And we have to do a better job of monitoring their treatment of the field. It needs to be a collaborative effort and we're confident that it will be."
Is it reasonable to think the Bears can suddenly make substantive efforts to maintain the field better? We're about to find out.