NFLPA outlines requests for safer playing surfaces

The NFLPA and the league’s players have been pushing for safer playing surfaces all season, only to get some pushback from the league and its teams. 

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was the latest owner to dismiss the push this week, but that did not stop the NFLPA from issuing an updated list of what it wants to see from teams and stadiums. 

In a letter published on the NFLPA website, J.C. Tretter outlined some major changes the union would like to see.

The first change is the immediate replacement and banning of all slit film turf.

Tretter writes that slit film turf has a higher rate of in-game injuries for non-contact injuries, missed time injuries, lower-extremity injuries, and foot and ankle injuries. 

The second change is that games no longer be played on fields that have obvious flaws or abnormalities. 

“Too often we see fields with clear issues that pose an increased risk to the players. Most recently, we saw the field in Tottenham that had a giant uneven seam right above the numbers. We should not be playing on anything but the best-quality playing surfaces. We saw this in Chicago and Las Vegas during the preseason as well, with chunks of grass torn up. This is an embarrassment. The NFL might be quick to say something like, “Those fields have passed their mandatory inspections.” While, again, this is a great PR spin, it does not address the need for safety improvements.”

The union also would like to see the clearing of excess people and equipment from the sidelines. 

“We have seen too many injuries because of this issue, and it really should be a simple fix. Give the players their space to perform. Year after year, the NFL tells us they will look into it; and year after year, nothing ever changes. The players are frustrated. We simply want a safer workplace. The NFL has an obligation to provide the safest work environment possible. They are not living up to that standard. We play one of the most dangerous sports in the world; it shouldn’t be more dangerous because the clubs won’t do anything to remove the simple injury risks on practice and playing surfaces. If the league wants to actually use data to drive its decisions, then do it already. We’ve been waiting for years for some of these changes.”

The proposed changes seem reasonable, but some of them are going to be tough a sell for the NFL. Owners like Jones are going to do everything in their power to stick with a field-turf alternative if they feel it has a lower maintenance cost and makes it easier for the stadium to host other events (or non-NFL football games) without serious damage to the playing surface.

There have been several non-contact injuries this season on artificial playing surfaces that have led to players — both former and current — calling for all grass fields. 

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