The NFL is monitoring options for a neutral field site in the coming weeks, due to scheduling changes after the cancellation of the Bills vs. Bengals game earlier this week. According to Ian Rapoport, Ford Field will not be one of those options, and the reasoning is quite interesting. Per Rapoport, the Lions will not be able to host a game because they have already scheduled to change their turf at Ford Field.
While the Lions can still make the playoffs, they are unable to get any higher than the seventh seed in the NFC, meaning it’s mathematically impossible for them to host a playoff game this year. When that became apparent, the Lions set plans in motion.
Per a team source, the Lions aren’t just resurfacing the turf, they’re completely replacing the kind of surface they’re using. Where they had previously used slit film turf, they are now replacing it with a more player-friendly CORE monofilament turf.
Playing surface has become a big issue in the NFL this season after NFLPA president JC Tretter publicly called for an immediate replacement of slit film turf, the type of surface that the Lions and six other teams are currently using. Here’s the relevant part of Tretter’s statement:
Just like there are different types of grass, there are also different types of turf (Monofilament, Dual fiber, Slit film). The slit film playing surface has statistically higher in-game injury rates compared to all other surfaces for each of the following:
Missed time injuries
Lower extremity injuries
Foot and ankle injuries
The NFL and its experts have agreed with this data and acknowledge that the slit film field is less safe. Player leadership wrote a letter to the NFL this week demanding the immediate removal of these fields and a ban on them going forward, both in stadiums and for practice fields. The NFL has not only refused to mandate this change immediately, but they have also refused to commit to mandating a change away from slit film in the future at all.
The Lions were originally planning to resurface the field in 2024, but when it became apparent the team would not be hosting a playoff game this season, they pushed up the installation until later this month.
“We’ve talked about it. This has been in the making for a while,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said Friday. “(Team president) Rod (Wood)’s been talking about this before anything came up about the grass and this and that. 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 best-rated turf that we can get. So that’s been a priority.”
Several Lions players have complained about the turf this season, including Lions NFLPA representative Jason Cabinda. Via MLive:
The turf really bothers their shin splints, just because it’s so hard. It doesn’t have that give that natural grass has. You can feel the difference, especially once you hit the ground. It’s way different when you’re hitting the turf, for sure. You definitely notice the turf is harder. It hurts more.”
Campbell says that the urgency of this move is all about the safety of the players, and it shows commitment from ownership that cost will not be an inhibiting factor when it comes to player safety.
“I think it’s another reason why this is a good place to be,” Campbell said. “When you have ownership that’s willing to do anything—and it kinda starts with the players—I think they think that way. I think that’s big.”