Once again, grass is making headlines in Houston.
After the Houston Texans 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, several Eagles players denounced the playing surface inside NRG Stadium, questioning whether it is safe to play on and wondering why the team and league haven’t made changes to improve conditions.
“I think it’s actually a pretty dangerous playing surface,” center Jason Kelce said.
Kelce said he wasn’t sure if the two major injuries Sunday, to Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans and Texans running back Arian Foster, had anything to do with the field, but said it wasn’t an ideal work environment, calling it “less than desirable.”
“I don’t really understand, like, what the deal with it is,” Kelce said. “But it definitely is uneven and it definitely doesn’t feel very good.”
Said linebacker Mychal Kendricks:
“Something needs to be done about it. Absolutely.”
The injuries to Ryans, who played six seasons with the Texans before being traded to the Eagles two summers ago, and Foster were suffered in the third quarter on non-contact plays. Ryans was hurt trying to turn and run after an interception, going down and eventually being carted off. Foster took a handoff left before sliding on the play, gimping off the field and throwing his helmet in frustration.
When asked if he thinks changes should be made, safety Malcolm Jenkins said:
“Somebody’s going to pay for it, but it’s not hard, no. I mean, if they really wanted to change the field, it’s not a hard thing. But it’s money and do they feel like they need to.”
The turf has been at the center of controversy since NRG Stadium opened in 2002.
Former Texans punter Brett Hartmann in 2012 sued the county that operates the stadium, alleging “unsafe turf” was to blame for a career-ending ACL injury. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick called it “one of the worst fields (he’s) seen” after then-wide receiver Wes Welker blew out his ACL on it in 2010.
More recently, Texans safety D.J. Swearinger said 2014 No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney told him that Clowney’s meniscus tear Week 1 against Washington was caused by the field.
At issue is how the surface is created, by laying together a series of square panels that are grown outside the stadium and carted in. As a result, there are often holes, seams and uneven levels of turf that, players say, isn’t safe.
“It’s always been like that, man,” said cornerback Cary Williams, who has played in Houston three times in his career, twice with the Baltimore Ravens and once with the Tennessee Titans.
“I’m sure the league evaluates it. If they deem it safe to play as players, then it’s deemed as safe. But I don’t like it, I’ve never liked it.”
It’s unclear how the field is monitored by the league, how many times it’s inspected per season and how many times its safety has been discussed.
But as has been suggested before, Eagles players said the way it’s done isn’t working.
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