The topic of player safety or lack thereof has been a hot-button issue for the NFL this year and while most of it has centered around concussions and hits to the head or next area, safer field conditions for the players has been just as important of a cause.
The age-old debate of grass vs. turf has been going on for decades but as more studies have been done and new data has been collected, it is clear that grass is a much safer surface to play on and turf is a danger to player safety.
Baltimore Ravens veteran defensive end Calais Campbell took to Twitter to voice his concerns. The 2019 recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award demands that the NFL takes action citing that players are at a higher risk of suffering non-contact injuries on slit film turf which seven teams in the league have on the fields in their home stadiums.
There have already been several players that have gone down with season-ending injuries while playing on these dangerous surfaces including two of Campbell’s teammates in two-time Pro Bowl corner Kyle Fuller and offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James. Both players went down in the team’s season-opening win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium where slit film turf is used and they were lost for the remainder of the year with lower extremity injuries.
On the same field two weeks later, the New York Giants lost their top wide receiver, Sterling Shepard, on that very same field when he went down to the turf clutching his knee after not even being touched while running a route downfield. Turns out the seven-year suffered a torn ACL a year suffering a ruptured Achilles in a home game and will end the season on injured reserve in back-to-back seasons.
Campbell believes that until something is done, the unfortunate and inevitable injuries will continue to mount for players on both the home and visiting teams in the stadiums where turf is still being played on.
Other NFL Players Sound Off on Turf Concerns
Campbell isn’t the only player that feels the same way as others echoed similar sentiments on Twitter as well. Detroit Lions safety Tracey Walker is currently on the team’s injured reserve after he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3 when his team didn’t just lose to their division rivals but lost him for the remainder of the year.
His Lions’ teammate, inside linebacker Jason Cabinda, sounded off on the topic as well, expressing that while everyone wants the players to be on the field, the conditions that many of them are forced to play on remain a danger to their health and a threat to their careers.
The #SaferFields movement is one that has some of the game’s biggest stars speaking out in support including Superbowl 56 MVP Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams, two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Nick Bosa of the San Fransico 49ers, and All-Pro offensive tackle David Bakhtiari of the Green Bay Packers.
In the most recent taping of the ‘New Heights’ podcast that he records with his older brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said that he’d “rather practice in sleet, snow, thunderstorm with a chance of getting struck by lightning than run inside on the turf”.
J.K. Dobbins Sets Record Straight About Repaired Knee
The last game that the Ravens’ third-year running back played in came in the team’s Week 6 road loss to the Giants where he didn’t finish the game because his surgically repaired knee tightened up. Since then, he was placed on injured reserve after undergoing surgery to remove some scar tissue from that knee that head coach John Harbaugh said was a “smashing success”.
Thankfully, it wasn’t season-ending surgery and he is expected to be back at some point. In a recent appearance on local CBS station WJZ’s ‘Purple Playbook’, he clarified exactly what the procedure was and the thought process that went into it.
“I didn’t get reinjured. I didn’t hurt myself or anything,” Dobbins said. “I just didn’t feel like myself. We looked at it and there was some stuff in my knee that was making me not feel like myself. It wasn’t bad, I could have still played but I’d rather be 100 percent going into the playoffs towards the end of the year so I could really do what I really need to do to help the team win.”
The Ravens can take their time with Dobbins because unlike the start of the season when their rushing attack struggled to gain any traction outside of Lamar Jackson’s contributions, the other running backs on the roster are playing well.
Veteran Kenyan Drake has stepped up in a big way needed this season since gaining his barrings and getting more comfortable in the offense. The team is also expected to get fifth-year pro Gus Edwards back coming off their bye when they host the Carolina Panthers in Week 11.
“So now this time around I’m like, ‘All right, I get what’s going on.’ So now whenever I come back, it’ll be me – the full me,” Dobbins said.