Thursday, August 11, 2011
Updated: August 12, 4:30 PM ET
Bears president assures NFL, Bills
By Michael C. Wright
Chicago Bears president Ted Phillips said Thursday that he's been communicating with the NFL and Buffalo Bills to assure them that Soldier Field turf conditions will be safe for Saturday's preseason game.
Concerns arose after the Bears were forced to cancel the practice part of last Friday's annual "Family Fest" because of field conditions. Thousands of fans were already in the stadium or on their way when practice was canceled.
Soldier Field general manager Tim LeFevour said the problem was the grounds crew didn't apply enough water to the natural grass field, which they like to keep dry and hard because of the Bears' team speed.
"I have talked to the league a couple of times," Phillips said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "They just wanted to know what happened, what I thought about it, what we were going to do about it, and I've also obviously been in contact with the Buffalo Bills. They're not here and they've appreciated the periodic updates.
"And everyone right now understands and knows that the expectation is the field is going to be in good playing condition, as good a playing condition as the field has ever been in at this time of year. It's going to be fine."
Several Bears players were embarrassed, and apologized for inconveniencing the fans. Star linebacker Brian Urlacher said Friday's incident was a "joke." Urlacher has campaigned for changing Soldier Field's surface to FieldTurf.
Soldier Field is owned by the Chicago Park District, but LeFevour said it's the Bears' call whether to stay with grass. Bears chairman George McCaskey said studies have indicated that grass is a safer surface.
Even Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel reportedly asked the Park District to look into the matter to ensure the facility is "reliable."
Bills players didn't seem overly concerned about potential issues at Soldier Field.
"You saw their field wasn't ready for their scrimmage or whatever it was," said Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. "They didn't let them play on it. If their field's not ready, we're not going to play on it, obviously. But I would highly doubt that would happen."
Bills coach Chan Gailey, meanwhile, said he's more concerned about the opposition than the playing surface.
"I've heard there's been a lot of talk about it. Evidently there's going to be somebody there," Gailey said. "Somebody's going to make some kind of decision about it's good, it's bad, it's not. I'm much more worried about how we play than I am about that. I hope they'll have it ready."
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com.