Lions Excited About Turf at New Ford Field
ALLEN PARK -- The fact that it's made from faulty Firestone tires makes the Ford Field turf interesting, with an ironic twist. All the players care about, though, is that there will be fewer twists, period.
For the past several decades, artificial turf has been a curse for pro athletes because the surface was hard, inconsistent and dangerous. Athletes can sprain toes, knees and ankles on any kind of playing surface, but artificial turf exacted an extremely high toll.
In a process that will take two weeks to complete, the installation of FieldTurf began Friday at Ford Field. It's the same surface that is used inside the Detroit Lions practice facility in Allen Park and it's already drawing rave reviews from the players.
"I think the turf is great and it'll be greatly beneficial to us in the long run," said cornerback Toddy Lyght, a 12-year veteran who played on FieldTurf two years ago.
During his career with the St. Louis Rams, Lyght played on the surface at the University of Washington, then the home field for the Seattle Seahawks.
"I had a turf toe that was really bothering me," Lyght said. "Through the course of that game, I felt really comfortable. We went back to St. Louis and the regular turf and my toe starting bothering me again. This turf is great for the joints, the toes, the ankles and the knees.
"If grass is on a scale of 10, the turf is an eight -- it's that close."
Rookie quarterback Joey Harrington, who played on that same field in college, believes it's even closer than that.
"It's just like grass and, to me, there's no difference," Harrington said. "It's a good surface, I like it."
The field is comprised of three basic elements: sand, green plastic fibers that look like grass and crumbled rubber, which resembles tiny rubber BBs. Fans will notice that when a player makes a hard cut or a football bounces hard on the surface, something appearing like dust will briefly arise. It's the rubber pellets.
And, so far, that's the only knock on FieldTurf. Players say there are times when they're close to the ground that the rubber can fly into their faces.
"It's the only negative about it and it's been a small, small complaint," said Lions executive vice president Tom Lewand, who is in charge of the construction of Ford Field.
"The many positives far outweigh the one negative. It functions like grass, it's soft and it's not abrasive. The argument can be made that it's even better than grass. As any high school player can attest, a grass field in September isn't the same grass field in December. In the winter you're playing on frozen dirt or mud."
Because of the turf's consistency, the surface keeps its texture whether it's indoors or outdoors and regardless of the climate.
"The difference between this and other synthetics is there isn't any pad underneath it," said Charlie Coffin, the groundskeeper at the Allen Park facility. "You can drive vehicles on it and it won't make the indentation like it would with AstroTurf.
"You could drive a semi-truck on it without any problem. You could have camper shows on it and you'd only have to put down flooring only on the walk areas."
Maintaining the field is also extremely simple.
"Remember when you used to have that yellow shag carpet in your house and they'd sell you that rake so you could rake it back up? It's basically that," Coffin said. "We have a broom that we drag, similar to what they have to drag a baseball infield. It's stands the fibers back up. And we have a sweeper to pick up the tape, the sunflower seeds, the papers and things like that."
Also, if the rubber/sand mixture becomes contaminated in any way, if a player bleeds or gets ill on the field, for example, a small vacuum can scoop up the debris in a small area and a new mixture replaces it.
It might be the hot month of August, but the Lions players are already thinking about the benefits of FieldTurf in November and December. When the weather turns nasty, practices must be held indoors to be effective. In the past, that meant two hours of pounding on the hard artificial turf at the Silverdome.
"I think it's really going to help us," said running back James Stewart. "When the weather starts to get bad, we have to switch practice to inside. Instead of practicing on hard turf, we'll be practicing on this and it's going to be better for all of us."
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