The Redskins have made clear their position on the playing surface at FedEx Field: that the field “was in good condition” on Thanksgiving night, despite “a recent freeze [that] made the Bermuda grass turn brown between the numbers,” and that the condition of the field was “a non-issue.”
And that position seems at least slightly at odds with the opinion of the team’s most important player, quarterback Kirk Cousins, who discussed the field at length during his weekly appearance with 106.7 The Fan’s “Grant and Danny” program.
“Yeah, it probably doesn’t look like a professional NFL field should, first of all,” Cousins said Friday. “Second of all, I watched last year’s game at the end of the season, and had forgotten how many times running backs, receivers, people had slipped while playing. You know, I don’t know if we need to get longer cleats on or what it is. But if you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we’ve got two more home games in mid-to-late December, and that’s probably gonna be a bigger challenge.”
“So it is what it is,” Cousins went on. “I don’t know why it is that way or what causes it. I’ve kind of learned to just accept it and understand it as a part of the deal: that playing here the field just has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever reason. I remember even going back to the playoff game my rookie year [in 2012], that it just gets in rough shape as the year goes on. We’ve got to control what we can control, which is put on the right set of cleats or have good footing, but we can’t use it as an excuse. There’s too many times where we have crucial plays where we have to have better footing, because it can be the difference in a win or a loss, or in staying on the field or punting, when a guy slips and we don’t make the play.”
That actually happened din a 2013 game against the Cowboys, when cornerback Josh Wilson slipped while attempting to cover a deep route.
“It wasn’t that he just went out there and got beat,” Brian Mitchell said at the time. “He slipped on the field, and I think that is a problem. And we’re still discussing a terrible playing surface, after all these years of this team. You need to make sure that the surface is the absolute best for the team. When it rains, it’s terrible; when it’s dry, they’re still slipping. You can’t have that problem at this level.”
Former receiver Pierre Garcon also mentioned this issue in the past — he called the playing surface “pretty nasty” in 2012 — and longtime Redskins receiver Santana Moss discussed the problem Thursday night on NBC Sports Washington.
“I’ve been playing on that field since ’05 to 2014, and the trick that we always used — it wasn’t a trick, it was the best way for you to go out there and be productive — is we put the long screw-in [cleats] in around the winter,” Moss said. “When it gets cold and gets sleek out there and you got the weather change, you’ve got to put the long screw-ins in. One of the things that Mr. Snyder had done for so many years was go out and buy a new field. He would bring new grass in. He would try to make it a home-field advantage when it comes to footing and make it better for us. But it just seemed to never catch the right way.”
Which doesn’t mean that there’s some consensus that an artificial surface would be better.
“It almost looks like packed soil, didn’t it?” Hall of Famer John Riggins said on ESPN 980 Friday morning. “It looked like it could be a little better. Let me say this: regardless, what they’ve got out there is better than artificial turf. You’ll never have me say you know what, they ought to go to a turf field. You just won’t ever hear it come out of my [mouth]. I hated turf. Hated it then, hate it now. I just like to see it played on some kind of natural surface. I don’t care if it’s mud. Give me mud, but don’t give me turf.”
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