Solider Field playing surface rates low

Updated: February 3, 2011, 8:30 PM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

The NFLPA released the 2010 NFL Players Playing Surfaces Opinion Survey on Thursday, and as expected, Soldier Field ranked as one of the league's worst surfaces, according to the 1,619 players from all 32 teams filling out survey forms.

Soldier Field ranked as the NFL's third-worst playing surface, receiving 465 votes. Heinz Field in Pittsburgh took the designation as the league's worst surface with 678 votes, followed by the Oakland Coliseum (609 votes). Sun Life Stadium in Miami (311) and Cleveland Brown Stadium (255) rounded out the top five.

Interestingly, despite rumblings about the Bears needing to switch to a synthetic surface, and seeming constant criticism of Soldier Field, the overwhelming majority -- according to the survey -- favored natural grass over a synthetic surface.

Here's a sampling of some of the results for the survey, which was conducted between September and November:

• 82.1 percent of the Bears (32 of the 39 players surveyed) felt that artificial surfaces are more likely to contribute to injuries than natural grass.

• 74.4 percent of the Bears preferred grass to artificial surfaces.

• 89.7 percent of the Bears' survey participants (35) said artificial surfaces caused more soreness and fatigue than grass.

• 94.9 percent (37) believe artificial surfaces are more likely to shorten a player's career than grass.

• 74.4 percent (29) think that artificial surfaces are more likely to negatively affect life after football than grass.

• 84.6 percent of the Bears felt that a league-wide standard for playing surfaces should have to be met before a field is eligible for games.

In the section of the survey in which participants were asked to rate their home field, 53.8 percent of Bears participants (21) rated the surface as "poor", 25.6 percent (10) called it "fair", 15.4 percent (6) consider it "good" and 5.1 percent (2) rated Soldier Field "excellent".

Fifty percent of the Bears surveyed attributed Soldier Field's bad condition to it being a multiple-use facility.

When asked to whom the condition of the field can be attributed, 46.2 percent of the Bears pointed the finger at ownership, 28.2 percent blamed the grounds crew, and 23.1 percent said the stadium manager was responsible.

In the anonymous comments section of the survey, one player had this to say about Soldier Field: "If it's a multi-purpose stadium, mandate [that the grass is] artificial. If only one [field is] used by the NFL, then it can be grass. Force Chicago and Pittsburgh to go to turf."

The NFLPA conducts its survey on playing surfaces every two years, and the Bears have gradually fallen in each of the last three surveys. After ranking as the 15th- and 18th-worst surfaces in 2002 and 2004, the Bears have fallen to fifth worst, fourth-worst, and third-worst in 2006, 2008, and 2010.

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter