Calls for real, natural grass instead of turf at NFL stadiums have been increasing since Monday night, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers tore his achilles just minutes into his first start for the New York Jets. On Wednesday morning, the NFL Players Association added its voice to the chorus.
Lloyd Howell, the newly elected executive director of the NFLPA, released a statement calling for every NFL stadium to have natural grass and not artificial turf.
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) September 13, 2023
"Moving all stadium fields to high quality natural grass surfaces is the easiest decision the NFL can make.
"The players overwhelmingly prefer it and the data is clear that grass is simply safer than artificial turf. It is an issue that has been near the top of the players' list during my team visits and one I have raised with the NFL.
"While we know there is an investment to making this change, there is a bigger cost to everyone in our business if we keep losing our best players to unnecessary injuries. It makes no sense that stadiums can flip over to superior grass surfaces when the World Cup comes, or soccer clubs come to visit for exhibition games in the summer, but inferior artificial surfaces are acceptable for our own players. This is worth the investment and simply needs to change now."
There are two stadiums Howell could be calling out in his statement about flipping back and forth between natural and artificial turf: SoFi Stadium (shared by the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams) and Bank of America Stadium (used by the Carolina Panthers). Both have hosted international soccer matches over the past few years and installed real grass for those teams before switching back to artificial turf for NFL games.
Whenever there's a season-ending player injury on turf, NFL players always make it clear that they want natural grass instead of turf.
Congrats @nfl. How many more players have to get hurt on ARTIFICIAL TURF??! You care more about soccer players than us. You plan to remove all artificial turf for the World Cup coming up. So clearly it’s feasible.
I’m sick of this..Do better!
We asked a bunch of Jets/Bills players about the turf at MetLife since it has a history of issues. New turf was put down before this season. RB Breece Hall who had a productive night, had the best answer.
“Grass. That’s my answer. We want grass”
— Dianna Russini (@DMRussini) September 12, 2023
On a conference call Tuesday, NFL executive vice president Jeff Miller said the league hadn't found a statistical difference between injury rates on turf vs. grass, though he declined to share any data or figures the NFL had collected as part of its ongoing "study" into playing surfaces.
More from NFL conference call: Jeff Miller, NFL executive overseeing health & safety, says there is no statistical difference in injury data going back to 2015 for Achilles' injuries suffered on natural grass vs. artificial turf fields. NFL and NFLPA continue to study surfaces.
— Judy Battista (@judybattista) September 12, 2023
Mike Jones and Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic subsequently reported that "players and personnel across the league have said they don’t trust the NFL’s data, or believe it lacks clarity and transparency." Players also reportedly believe the owners are motivated by money, since using artificial turf makes it cheaper to use the stadium for non-football events.