The longer season goes, the more people line up to take shots at the playing surface at Soldier Field.
Greg Jennings, the Green Bay Packers wide receiver, stepped forward and took his turn today.
“It's rough. It's probably one of the worst, probably the worst in the league,” Jennings said.
The Packers, who play at Chicago Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, have not played at Soldier Field since Week 3. It’s impossible to grow grass outdoors at this time of year in the climate, but the surface is criticized early in the season too when the weather isn’t bad.
“You have to go out before the game, pregame, and kind of get a feel of what you're working with, what you're dealing with, get your footing, because that's going to play a huge, huge role in the game,” Jennings said.
The Bears have dealt with the issue all season. Quarterback Jay Cutler slammed the playing surface and that promoted the Chicago Park District – which owns and operates the stadium – to call an impromptu press conference. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has also ripped the playing surface.
While the Bears don’t own the stadium, they control right now the right to play on natural grass. The Park District, which pays for the field to be re-sodded several times a year, would love to move to an artificial in-fill surface. The Park District would have to pay for the change, but they’d save money quickly because they’d no longer have to pay for the installation of fresh sod.
The Bears have maintained that their top concern is safety, and the club cites research that backs that up. Still, general manager Jerry Angelo said the team could consider a chance during the offseason.
The team and the landlord will have to hear about the surface for one more week this season.
“It's the middle of January in Chicago,” Bears tight end Greg Olsen said. “We've had a lot of snow. It's been cold. You don't have to be a scientist to know that grass doesn't grow in these conditions.”
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune