NFL players union president JC Tretter called on the NFL to immediately ban the use of tear film turf around the league — among other changes — in a letter made public Saturday.
In the memo Tretter sent to the league and posted on the NFLPA website, he said he recently spoke with several players who expressed concerns about turf fields. Tretter said games played on the surface have higher rates of in-game injuries compared to other playing surfaces, particularly when it comes to non-contact, foot and ankle injuries.
“The NFL and its experts have agreed with this data and recognize that the slot film field is less safe,” Tretter wrote. “Player leadership wrote a letter to the NFL this week calling for the immediate removal of these pitches and their ban in the future, both on field and practice fields. Not only has the NFL refused to enforce this change immediately, but it has also refused to commit to enforcing a change away from slit film in the future.”
Film-slit turf is currently used in six stadiums across the league: MetLife Stadium (Giants and Jets), Ford Field (Lions), US Bank Stadium (Vikings), Caesars Superdome (Saints), Lucas Oil Stadium (Colts) and Paycor Stadium ( Bengals).
Tretter didn’t stop at the letter after calling for a ban on slit-film turf. He also called on the NFL to disallow plays on fields with obvious visual anomalies and to raise standards for field safety testing. Finally, he asked the league to clean up overcrowding and dangerous equipment from the sidelines.
“The players are frustrated,” Tretter wrote. “We just want a safer workplace. The NFL has an obligation to provide the safest possible work environment. They do not meet this standard.
“We play one of the most dangerous sports in the world. it shouldn’t be more dangerous because clubs will do nothing to eliminate the simple risks of injury in training and on playing surfaces. If the league wants to use real data to drive their decisions, then do it already. We’ve been waiting years for some of these changes.”
Tretter is not the first player to draw attention to dangerous playing surfaces. Earlier in the year, Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp pointed out the differences between the grass game and the turf game, and more recently, Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell expressed his frustration with the turf game being “literally like concrete.”
Just earlier this week, former players Richard Sherman and Andrew Whitworth raised the issue during Amazon Thursday night football after the match.
“It needs to change immediately,” said Sherman, per All Bengalis. “The safety of the Champions League players. And when there are clear signs that a playing surface is dangerous—there are nine more serious injuries on that surface than even other turf—like, you need to change it now.
“You take over immediately. There have been 15-18 more injuries this season alone. So the data they collected did not include this season. … As a player, there’s no reason to take that kind of risk. These are outdoor courts. … They can change that. The indoor courts – fine, there’s an argument there. But when you can change the surface, it should be grass. … Player safety is non-negotiable.”
As Tretter makes the argument on behalf of the players, internal league data obtained by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert shows that the rate of non-contact injuries to the knee, ankle and foot were about the same on natural and artificial playing surfaces in recent years. The injury rate became nearly the same in 2021, and NFL executive vice president of communications Jeff Miller said the ratio “replicated” during the 2022 preseason.
Full data for the 2022 season will be collected at the end of the campaign.
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