Brian Urlacher wants field changes

Updated: August 11, 2011, 6:31 PM ET
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- There shouldn't even be a debate about Soldier Field's playing surface, according to Chicago Bears perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher.

"I don't understand why we don't have FieldTurf yet," Urlacher said on Saturday. "We're a fast team, we play fast on FieldTurf. The injury issues aren't as bad as they used to be, they've gone down a lot in the last few years with the way they've made the turf and stuff. I don't understand it. Use our speed. We can run, let us go out there and run."

Citing safety concerns about the Soldier Field playing surface, the Bears canceled Friday's Family Fest practice, but did offer fans who purchased tickets and parking a full refund as well as entrance to the stadium and free food and non-alcoholic beverages. The team also went on with its fireworks display.

Coach Lovie Smith said the Bears have to be ready to play on every surface.

"I understand some of the players would want field turf; some would want grass," Smith said. "We have a grass field right now. For whatever reason, it wasn't ready then. But I'm sure we'll have the field ready to go next time. We can't really get into that. We're gonna play on a surface.

"During the course of this season, we're gonna play on natural surfaces, and we're gonna play on artificial surfaces, too. We just have to be ready to go. For us, we're gonna show up down there in about a week to play the Bills, and I'm sure the turf will be in great shape, and the guys won't be able to tell whether it's natural or artificial." Bears kicker Robbie Gould agreed with Urlacher's assertion that FieldTurf was be the best surface for Soldier Field, and was disappointed with Friday's fiasco.

"Obviously, we wanted to play there," Gould said Saturday. "We were real excited. Our families sat in the traffic, and they were disappointed just as much as everybody else was. ... Hopefully the situation will get taken care of."

Safety Chris Harris said he preferred natural grass to FieldTurf, but was surprised by the bad conditions Friday.

"It's tough. I love playing on natural grass fields compared to playing on FieldTurf, but you would think we wouldn't have a problem with grass in August. In November, December, when the weather starts changing, yeah, you get it. But in August -- go figure -- I couldn't figure that one out."

According to Soldier Field general manager Tim LeFevour, the stadium's grounds crew -- hoping to dry the field to make it firmer for Friday's practice -- "miscalculated" and didn't administer the proper amount of water to the surface, causing the rectangular seams of sod to come apart, thus creating gaps in the field that could potentially cause injury.

"It's a joke," Urlacher said. "I don't understand how you can't have the field ready. It sucks for the fans because I'm sure it was a pain in the butt to get down there with all the traffic. I think Coach [Lovie Smith] did the right thing not letting us practice on that stuff. It's just too bad it had to be that way."

Once the decision was made to cancel the practice at Soldier Field, the Bears boarded buses and returned to Bourbonnais to conduct a closed workout. It's estimated the team wrapped up practice at roughly the same time it was scheduled to return from Chicago, if Family Fest had gone as planned. But the change in routine upset several players, including Bears linebacker Lance Briggs.

"It was annoying to end practice that late," Briggs said. "We have a certain schedule, a set schedule and we have it for a reason so we can get plenty of rest. Driving all the way up to downtown and then having a police escort [help] us out during rush hour, it's annoying."

The Bears are scheduled to open the preseason at Soldier Field against the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 13. Although LeFevour insisted the field will be ready for the Bears to face the Bills next weekend, Urlacher wasn't so sure.

"I think there was a game a few years ago at Philly where they canceled a game, [when] Andy Reid and Brian Billick didn't want to play on it," Urlacher said. "Hopefully that doesn't happen to us."

Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. Michael C. Wright contributed to this report.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.