Joe Burrow talks synthetic turf amid NFL-NFLPA spat over field safety

Burrow stopped short of taking an outright side but did take issue with the NFL’s field standards.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) runs for a touchdown against the New Orleans...
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) runs for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)(Gerald Herbert | AP)
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 9:02 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Joe Burrow on Wednesday joined a league-wide conversation on the safety of playing on synthetic turf surfaces like Paycor Stadium’s “slit film” field.

“You do notice it,” he said. “The field quality is the first thing you notice when you walk out there. It kind of changes the cleats you wear, changes how you cut and how you run routes... All of the above.”

The NFL Players Association and some high-profile players across the league have argued against turf. Aaron Rogers, firmly tongue-in-cheek, said Tuesday he believed fewer noncontact injuries would result if the league played exclusively on natural grass.

“This would be putting money where your mouth is if the league is really interested in player safety,” he said.

Burrow played on LSU’s natural grass 2018-19 and then tore his ACL on Washington’s natural grass field in 2020. He now plays the balance of his games at Paycor Stadium, which converted from natural grass to synthetic turf in 2003.

Th Bengals quarterback said enjoys playing on the synthetic surface.

“I personally like playing on turf,” he said. Asked why, he replied, “Just feels faster to me.”

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Burrow took issue only with the NFL’s standards—or lack thereof—for playing surfaces, saying he wished each NFL stadium had the same turf.

“I think having universal turf would be a great thing for us as players,” he said.

The NFL does evaluate practice and game fields for hardness, but the NFLPA has long questioned its efficacy as a test for player safety.

Burrow readily acknowledged he couldn’t speak to NFL injury data comparing synthetic turf to natural grass.

NFLPA President J.C. Tretter cited that data previously in a post urging NFL clubs to “proactively change all field surfaces” to natural grass.

In a more recent post, Tretter argued against certain times of turf, including the slit-film used at Paycor. He claimed the NFL’s own experts have agreed that turf type is less safe than alternatives, though the NFL has so far refused either to impose changes or prohibit future use.

“Our occupation is dangerous enough, and the increased rate of lower extremity injuries linked to the field surface we are forced to play on is unacceptable,” he said.

Tretter claimed the injury data, collected from 2012-18, show a significantly higher rate of contact-based and noncontact-based leg injuries during practices and games on artificial turf as compared to natural surfaces. Per his post, turf results in:

  • 28 percent higher rate of noncontact injuries to the lower extremities;
  • 32 percent higher rate of noncontact knee injuries; and
  • 69 percent higher rate of noncontact foot/ankle injuries.

“Professional football players put extremely high levels of force and rotation onto the playing surface. Grass will eventually give, which often releases the cleat prior to reaching an injurious load,” Tretter said. “On synthetic surfaces, there is less give, meaning our feet, ankles and knees absorb the force, which makes injury more likely to follow.”

Tretter noted the NFL and Player’s Association are working together with manufacturers to engineer safer cleats and playing surfaces. But until then, he argued steps must be taken to protect the players.

“Climate and weather are not barriers to natural grass practice or game fields,” he said. “Cold-climate teams like the Packers, Steelers and Browns successfully maintain natural grass fields.

“Indoor stadiums shouldn’t be a barrier for grass fields, either. The Cardinals and Raiders have figured out how to provide a natural grass playing surface indoors. Agronomically, natural grass field surfaces are possible everywhere.”

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