The push for grass pitches instead of artificial turf continues. More and more players and coaches are saying what needs to be said about the importance of protecting players by playing games on real grass covering real dirt.
Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, whose team plays on artificial turf in one of the league’s newest stadiums, recently said all games should be played on turf. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey was asked about the situation Friday during his weekly press conference.
“Grass,” Ramsay said of his preference. “I feel it’s better for you. It’s better for your joints, it’s better for your body. This might sound a little funky or a little weird, but if you’re out there playing, all players will know what I mean, the feel is different. You can feel weed differently than you feel chyma. The grass may give way a little. The way you plant, the way you break, the feel is better. But I don’t trip, I’ll play on concrete if I have to.”
Many players have this mindset, whether because they really feel that way or because they believe they have to say it in order to be perceived as tough.
Ramsey was also asked if the turf vs. pitch issue was a matter of player safety. He stated the obvious, but with some reluctance in his response.
“A little bit, but I mean, there’s really nothing we can do about it,” Ramsey said. “There’s a lot that goes into it, business, all the other stuff, but yeah, I do. It’s all right though.”
Ramsey seemed resigned to the fact that it didn’t matter. Stan Kroenke could build a stadium with a grass system, but it would be much more expensive to do so. An artificial field can be quickly and easily covered when the venue hosts any of the various other revenue-generating events that aren’t Rams or Chargers football games. And there would be additional costs to create a turf rolling system in the stadium, a system currently used in Arizona and Las Vegas.
The issue of surface safety gained even more attention after Chargers cornerback JC Jackson’s season-ending non-contact knee injury on the surface. During Super Bowl LVI, the same thing happened to Odell Beckham, Jr., who got the Rams.
“Strange incidents happen sometimes, don’t they?” Ramsey said. “It comes into play, but like I said, I really like grass more than chim, but it is what it is. It’s a lot that goes into everything. Nothing is ever really simple. We try to come here and give you simple answers, or I can try to give you a simple answer, but nothing is ever really simple. Business comes into it, all other kinds of things come into all these decisions when it comes to creating a mega-stadium like this. So that’s just part of it. It is what it is. That’s part of it. Everyone has to deal with it, so it’s not like it’s something we can complain about, you know what I mean? Because everyone has to deal with it. But it sucks to see injuries like that, whether it’s just a freak accident or whether it’s because of the grass or something. It just sucks to see so many guys get hurt.”
Ramsay may seem nonchalant about it, but he’s rightly resigned to the fact that no matter how much anyone complains, change isn’t going to happen.
However, everyone must continue to push for change. It’s easy to become numb to the reasons why owners won’t pay for a safer playing surface. If enough people make enough noise about it, they’ll have no other chance but to dip into their superyacht maintenance budget for some cash that could be used to put a better, safer playing surface on the football stadiums they use.
In recent months, Super Bowl-winning coaches like John Harbaugh and Pete Carroll have stepped in. The union’s position is also clear. More people need to keep saying it, loudly and repeatedly, to effect change.