Commissioner Roger Goodell did his “state of the union” leading up to Super Bowl XLVII. Covering a myriad of topics including an emphasis on player safety. Goodell alluded to changes that could have an impact on the Chicago Bears and Soldier Field:
The Competition Committee’s agenda will include looking at eliminating certain dangerous low blocks; further taking the head out of the game and expanding the standards for the quality of our playing fields.
This is clearly in response to the knee injury that Washington Redskins quarterback RGIII suffered in the opening round of the playoffs, where poor field conditions may have contributed to his injury.
It’s no secret that the quality of the Soldier Field turf has been questionable from time to time. Numerous Bears players have ripped the poor condition of the field, including kicker Robbie Gould earlier this season. The Bears had to cancel a family night practice at Soldier Field in the 2011 preseason, an embarrassment to the team and the Chicago Park District alike.
There are two problems with the Soldier Field situation. The first is that the Bears don’t own Soldier Field; they’re just the most high profile tenant of the Chicago Part District. The Bears have an influence over the field, but they don’t have final say. The City of Chicago allows various high school and college games, concerts, soccer games and other special events that tear up the field.
The other factor is that the Bears don’t want artificial turf. Ted Phillips has pointed to studies that indicate that lower leg injuries, like the one that RGIII suffered, occur more frequently on artificial turf as compared to natural grass. Here’s a snippet from a Tribune article that touched on this back in 2010:
The Park District was interested in changing the surface — despite a busy summer schedule at the stadium that includes five concerts – but the Bears indicated they aren’t.
One of the complicating factors is the Bears still are awaiting results of a league study on injuries incurred on infill playing surfaces. They are concerned because preliminary findings have suggested lower leg injuries occur at a higher rate on infill.
“The Chicago Bears will always put a premium on player safety,” Phillips said in a statement to the Tribune. “Each year we will continue to discuss the pros and cons of grass and infill surfaces, and then make a decision.”
I’ll be really interested to see what the Competition Committee finds and how it will affect the Bears. Could the RGIII rule change the face of Soldier Field?