Ford Field getting new playing surface, no more slit-film turf after player compaints

Detroit Free Press

Two months after the NFL Players Association called for a ban on the type of turf used at Ford Field, the Detroit Lions are installing a new surface for 2023.

The Lions said Monday they are switching from a slit-film turf to a monofilament field turf, which is considered the most grass-like surface of the three kinds of turf used in NFL stadiums.

Installation, which was originally scheduled for 2024, is scheduled to begin this month as part of a package of stadium enhancements. The team said the decision was made to move installation up one year “once it became unlikely that we would host a home playoff game this year.”

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The Lions (8-8) can clinch a playoff spot with a win in Sunday’s regular season finale against the Green Bay Packers and a Seattle Seahawks loss to the Los Angeles Rams. If they make the postseason, they would be the seventh seed and would spend the playoffs on the road.

“This has been in the making for a while, and (team president Rod Wood has) been talking about this for before anything came up about the grass and this and that,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “We’re committed. (Owner) Sheila (Hamp) and Rod are committed to finding — whatever it is, we know we can’t have grass, we’re a dome team, so let’s find the very best, the best-rated turf that we can get. So that’s been a priority.”

Ford Field is one of six NFL stadiums that currently use slit-film turf, along with U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., the Superdome in New Orleans, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.

MetLife Stadium also plans to change playing surfaces this offseason.

In November, NFL Players Association president J.C. Tretter called for the NFL to ban the use of slit-film turf and transition to grass fields at all its stadiums. He wrote on social media that slit-film turf has higher rates of non-contact injuries, foot and ankle injuries, and injuries that cause players to miss time than monofilament or dual-fiber turf fields.

The NFL said in a statement, via Pro Football Talk, that concerns about slit-film turf are exaggerated.

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Lions safety Tracy Walker tore his Achilles tendon during a game at U.S. Bank Stadium in September and told the Free Press he blamed the turf for his injury. In November, pass rushers Rashan Gary of the Green Bay Packers and Von Miller of the Buffalo Bills suffered ACL tears at Ford Field that amplified the call for the stadium to change surfaces.

Several Lions players expressed their preference to play on grass, with center Frank Ragnow saying playing on turf is “like playing on this (carpet in the locker room).”

“There’s like literally just a little bit of carpet on concrete and it’s just hard on the knees, especially when you are 300-plus pounds,” he said. “It’s a lot of — whether you’re just standing there. Like you ask the coaches after standing for a game on turf all day, they’re feeling it in their lower backs, too.”

Campbell, who downplayed issues about Ford Field’s surface earlier this season, called the change “a big deal” Friday.

“I think that’s another reason why — look, man, this is a good place to be,” he said. “When you have ownership that’s willing to do anything and it kind of starts with the players, I think they think that way. I think that’s big.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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