And it took no time for Winnipeg’s media to take shots at the league for the field product that left many empty seats inside the 33,422-capacity Investors Group Field, as members of the media visiting the Canadian city shared Friday morning.
Winnipeg Free Press columnist Mike McIntyre described what happened Thursday night as “nothing short of a sham” after players were benched and the field was altered due to safety concerns that arose with the playing field in the pregame. He cited “grossly overpriced tickets that were running north of $400” and the fact that an announced total of 21,992 fans showed up to see none of the stars actually play.
The whole sales pitch surrounding the game was that all of the stars would come out and probably play at least the first half, since it was happening during the third week of the pre-season.
Lies. All of it lies. Instead, we were treated to an assortment of NFL backups, wannabees and never-will-be’s, many of whom will likely be playing in the CFL in short order. It says something when the loudest cheers of the night came from fans applauding themselves in the fourth quarter for succesfully getting a sustained “Wave” going around the stadium.
—Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press on Aug. 22, 2019.
The Winnipeg Free Press wasn’t the only news organization in the city to throw shade and lay into the NFL for the exhibition nightmare, as the Winnipeg Sun ran headlines such as “Crowd Goes Mild” and “Tragicomic” and devoted multiple pages to the issues.
As of early Friday evening, the NFL had yet to comment on the disastrous preseason affair in Winnipeg.
Considering Thursday night’s game was the NFL’s first played in Canada since the Buffalo Bills stopped coming to Toronto in 2013, Commissioner Roger Goodell and his fellow league officials will want to exercise more caution when trying to schedule more games in the future with the neighbors up north.
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What Just Happened?
Issues quickly arose in the pregame as members of the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders began warming up at Investors Group Field. Rumors began spreading that the Packers were mulling the decision to sit their starters because of issues with the turf, which was confirmed in a matter of minutes on the Packers TV broadcast.
In total, the Packers benched 33 players over field conditions, which head coach Matt LaFleur explained in — somewhat — further detail Friday after not saying much other than he didn’t want to play them in Thursday night’s postgame.
Because of safety concerns with the end zones, the field was also reduced to just 80 yards after the two teams agreed to several rule changes. All kickoffs were eliminated, while the team due to receive the ball after the other scored points simply took the ball at the 15-yard line — or technically, the 5-yard line with the shortened field.
Jon Gruden Points Finger at Packers
Answering his first question in Thursday’s postgame, Jon Gruden said he wished his team could have had kickoff reps for their 22-21 victory over the Packers while indicating it was the Packers — not the Raiders — displeased with the field.
“I’m not going to make a big deal about the field,” Gruden said. We liked the field. We thought the field was perfectly ready to roll, but you’ll have to ask Green Bay about that.”
During the pregame, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst and President/CEO Mark Murphy were among those examining one of the end zones, specifically a patched spot where the Canadian Football League goal posts had been removed. As clearly the Packers made the move for safety concerns, Gruden’s comments didn’t sit particularly well everyone.
The Packers and Raiders will meet again during the regular season — thankfully on American soil in a stadium built for American football — on Oct. 20 inside Lambeau Field.