Thursday, August 11, 2011
Rashied Davis: Soldier Field turf 'atrocious'
By Kevin Seifert ESPN.com
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- I caught up Thursday with former Chicago Bears receiver/special-teams ace Rashied Davis, whom the Detroit Lions consider as important as any addition they've made to their roster this summer. I'll tell you soon about why coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan are so happy to have him, but first I want Davis' thoughts to be heard on an important NFC North topic.
I wanted to ask Davis about the field conditions at Soldier Field for two reasons. First, he is a smart player who could offer a credible and rational opinion on the situation based on years of experience. Second, his departure from the Bears eliminates any fear of reprisal.
The Soldier Field grounds crew used sand to fill the gaps in between pieces of sod.
Davis echoed what Bears linebacker Brian Urlachersaid recently. Players aren't too concerned from a safety perspective but think the Bears have missed the competitive boat by not maximizing their team speed with a faster turf.
"I would still rather play on the grass," Davis said. "Everybody would still rather play on the grass. But when it comes to performance, and especially the team that [coach Lovie Smith] has built over there, it's built on speed. It's built on speed. That grass field is not an advantage to them because they can't really run. They can't run and plant full speed and come out of breaks and all that with that weather like that. It's not an advantage."
A well-maintained grass field might lead to different results, but for years it has appeared that Soldier Field can't provide that option. Davis follows Bears safety Chris Harris and place-kicker Robbie Gould on Twitter, and he was stunned at the photographs they posted of the field conditions following last Friday cancellation of Family Night.
"It's atrocious," Davis said. "It's always been atrocious. I can say this now, but I don't know how the grounds crew keeps a job. Honestly. Because this early in the year, it's inexcusable for the grass not to be watered enough. Supposedly that was the problem. It's inexcusable. All you got to do is put the timer on. That's inexcusable."
Bears chairman George McCaskey said earlier this week that the team would make no changes to the playing surface because it considers grass the safest option. Davis didn't disagree, saying: "Grass gives, so you're not necessarily going to worry about getting your leg stuck in the ground." Davis, in fact, said Soldier Field grass has always been safer than the frozen turf the Bears and Minnesota Vikings played on last December at TCF Bank Stadium.
"That wasn't safe at all," Davis said. "That was much worse than torn-up-grass."
Still, you're talking about degrees of bad as opposed to levels of excellence. Soldier Field is a relatively new stadium in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Already this summer, Urlacher has called the situation "a joke." Now Rashied Davis considers it "atrocious." Why do we need to be discussing what option is the least dangerous instead of finding a way to make it as close to perfect as possible?
OK I'm going to get off the soap box now -- at least until Saturday's preseason opener.
Related: Bears president Ted Phillips told ESPN 1000 that the field will be "fine" Saturday night against the Buffalo Bills.