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Tuesday, September 6, 2011
TurfGames: Bears delay Soldier Field re-sod

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

A month ago, the playing surface at Soldier Field was deemed unacceptable for a Chicago Bears practice.

Since then, the Bears have played two preseason games on the same grass. Three high school games were scheduled. And on Saturday, Alabama A&M and Hampton played the Chicago Football Classic in an event that was preceded by a high school band competition.

All of that activity was expected to culminate in a surface replacement in time for the Bears' season opener Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. But in a radio interview Monday night, team president Ted Phillips said the team decided against a replacement now and is now targeting one in time for the Week 3 game against the Green Bay Packers.

(After, of course, the scheduled Sept. 17 game between Northern Illinois and Wisconsin.)

"The week before our last preseason game," Phillips said. "Both our groundskeeper and the Park District groundskeeper did great work getting that field ready. It was in as good a shape as it's been this time of year. They've reassessed the field, and they feel that even after a couple of high school games and a college game last Saturday, that the surface at Soldier Field, with another week of maintenance every day, with the cooler weather, that it will be as good of a surface, as fast as you can have a grass surface be. ... It will be safe."

In the wake of last month's practice fiasco, Bears chairman George McCaskey said the team would take a more active role in field maintenance, and Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune has additional details along those lines. Pompei notes that the Chicago Park District -- which owns and runs the stadium -- planned to re-sod last Saturday and had gone so far as to move its re-sodding equipment onto the field before Bears officials arrived and overruled them.

The news probably won't change the opinions of many Bears players, including linebacker Brian Urlacher, who have argued forcefully this summer for replacing the grass with artificial turf. And it won't change the appearance, at least from the outside, that the important job of maintaining the Bears' home field remains a tug-of-war between two entities who might not share the same priorities. Let TurfGames 2011 begin.