The grumbling about the grass at FedEx Field started before the Washington Redskins played the Seattle Seahawks in a first-round playoff game last month. It continued after Redskins starting quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered torn knee ligaments when his feet slipped from under him while reaching for an errant snap. And it reached a crescendo this week when Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said the team doesn’t plan to replace the grass field with FieldTurf.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called the field “horrible.”
Now the NFL is chiming in. CBSSports.com reported Wednesday that the league plans to get involved in managing field conditions.
According to Ray Anderson, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, the NFL will be “more proactive” in deciding how or when to resod fields. While Anderson, here for competition committee meetings at the annual NFL Scouting Combine, said the league would not assume control from local stadium authorities, he did indicate it needs to be more involved in overseeing field conditions to minimize the chances of another FedEx mess from occurring.
“The policy is that the clubs — or the stadium authority –has a lot of discretion with regard to the field,” he said. “They determine the usage of the field, with regard to high school games, college games, concerts, etc. and they have typically had the discretion to determine when they want to … or need … to resod.
“Going forward, we’re going to be much more proactive about making sure we, at the league level, make determinations, particularly with natural surfaces, later in the year subject to weather factors. We must be more attentive and more assertive about when certain standards or resodding or maintenance needs to be redone.”
This is a throwback to the 1990s, when the NFL had grounds-keeping guru George Toma on-call for big games. More than once, he was flown into San Francisco to repair the Candlestick Park field for NFC Championship Games. And he was contracted to be the groundskeeper for Super Bowls during that era.
At least in this case, Anderson sounded as if the NFL is taking some of the blame for the condition of the field.
“In my personal opinion,” he said, “I think it was a combination of both the club and the league. And at football operations that comes to me at the end of the day — for not paying close enough attention to the details soon enough.”
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor