CHICAGO – Perhaps the biggest topic of debate among Bears’ fans this offseason had nothing to do with the team but the place where they’ll play their home games for the long term.
Will they bolt for Arlington Heights and a bigger, most likely domed stadium? Will they take a hard look at Chicago’s proposals to renovate Soldier Field to put a roof on it?
Staying on the lakefront didn’t exactly look so great on Saturday thanks to what remains a very tricky playing surface at the venue that showed some wear before and during the Bears-Chiefs game.
Having hosted an Elton John concert on August 5th, the grass was worn a bit as the teams took the field for warmups ahead of their first preseason contest of 2022. There were noticeable spots of brown in the grass before the game was event played, which led to a few speaking out on the condition of the field.
JC Tretter, the president of the NFLPA, tweeted a photo of the grass featuring a few brown patchesand voiced his displeasure at the conditions.
“The NFL said that this field met minimum testing standards. We clearly need to re-evaluate what is an acceptable surface for players to compete on,” said Tretter on Twitter. “We need new testing metrics looking at the performance and safety of every field. The NFL can and should do better.”
Of course, problems with the playing surface at Soldier Field have always been present since the team switched to natural grass before the 1988 season. It’s not only home to the Bears but also Chicago Fire FC soccer along with concerts throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
This marked the second time the Bears were on the field that week, having taken part in a Family Fest practice on Tuesday morning. Quarterback Justin Fields said that the grass was improved a few days later for the game against the Chiefs, but knows what to expect when playing at the venue.
“I mean, it’s kind of always been like that. It was definitely better than the family fest
earlier this week,” said Fields. “I’m just glad it was better than what it was earlier this week because earlier this week it wasn’t the best. But the grass could definitely be better, though, for sure.”
Kicker Cairo Santos talked about the Family Fest field conditions during his news conference on Wednesday and revealed that he altered offseason training to adjust to the Soldier Field conditions. When working in Jacksonville, he left a turf field to go practice on another one that’s more comparable to his home venue in Chicago.
“In my neighborhood, there is a soccer field. The grass, it’s Bermuda grass, it’s real long, I said ‘OK, this is more like it,'” said Santos. “The ball flies different. It’s not super even all the time, like Soldier’s not super even, either. It’s good to be uncomfortable – feeling comfortable when you’re uncomfortable, I guess what I’m trying to say.
“It’s important to put yourself in that situation.”
When asked if he was concerned about the turf, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was a bit playful with his answer on Saturday.
“A lot better than my high school field was,” said Reid, who paused for a second after saying that and said “Not much.”