After Rodgers Injury, NFLPA Speaks Out

Players association wants league to switch to all natural grass
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 13, 2023 6:35 PM CDT
After Rodgers Injury, NFLPA Renews Call for Natural Grass
The Tennessee Titans will debut the NFL's newest artificial surface Sunday in their home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.   (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

The NFL Players Association wants the league to switch all its fields to natural grass, calling it "the easiest decision the NFL can make." Executive Director Lloyd Howell issued a statement Wednesday morning saying NFL players "overwhelmingly prefer it and the data is clear that grass is simply safer than artificial turf," the AP reports. Howell said the issue "has been near the top of the players' list during my team visits and one I have raised with the NFL." The players union called for the change less than 48 hours after a season-ending injury to four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon in his debut with the New York Jets on Monday night.

Howell acknowledged in his statement that making such a change requires an investment. But he said there's a bigger cost to the NFL if the league keeps losing its best players to "unnecessary injuries." He noted the NFL flips surfaces to grass for World Cup or soccer exhibitions, "but artificial surfaces are acceptable for our own players." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday on ESPN's First Take that the playing surface is a "complex issue," and part of the collective bargaining agreement covered the use of science to measure injuries. The league and the union use the same data to gauge injuries.

Goodell noted Rodgers had one of two Achilles tendon injuries in the NFL's first week, with the other on grass. "That is where we make decisions, on the basis of science, not because I see an injury that I don't like," Goodell said. The union has asked for all grass fields for years. The NFLPA in April pointed to studies from 2012-22 that it says show a significant increase in non-contact injuries on artificial surfaces vs. grass fields. The NFL has defended the use of artificial turf, pointing to 2021 when the numbers for injuries on both surfaces were close.

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Rodgers argued for grass all over the league last November while with the Green Bay Packers. He said some artificial surfaces are softer, creating more wobble when the foot hits the ground. "It's that wobble that can cause some of these non-contact knee injuries that we've seen," Rodgers said at the time. "I'm not sure if that's the standard that's set for that type of surface or it's the installation of that surface, but a lot of that could be just done away with if we had grass in every stadium." A new artificial surface was installed this year at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium, where Rodgers was hurt. Jets coach Robert Saleh said Tuesday that he didn't see the surface as being an issue in Rodgers' injury. The 39-year-old quarterback was hurt when he was taken down by Bills defender Leonard Floyd.

(More NFL stories.)

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