Rolle believes turf caused Hixon's injury

Updated: June 17, 2010, 7:45 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle believes the turf at the New Meadowlands Stadium is the reason why wide receiver and returner Domenik Hixon is out for the year.

Rolle said he was watching when Hixon crumpled to the new FieldTurf untouched on a punt return and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Tuesday.

"I was right there when it happened and I saw it right away," Rolle told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday after the Giants' final practice of veterans' minicamp. "And I was like, 'Damn, it don't look good.' He didn't make a cut or anything. It just got caught in the turf."

Giants general manager Jerry Reese said on Wednesday that the new FieldTurf was not the reason why Hixon suffered his season-ending injury and that it could have happened on any surface. Reese said the returner's foot did not get caught in the turf. Head coach Tom Coughlin initially said right after the Giants' first practice in the $1.6 billion stadium on Tuesday that it appeared Hixon got his foot caught. After reviewing the tape on Wednesday, Coughlin changed his mind, saying that he saw Hixon "turning a little bit, and he [had] a little hyper-extended kind of thing."

Chip Namias, a spokesman for FieldTurf, said it typically takes a few weeks for the surface to settle in and he was told the team did not believe the field was responsible for Hixon's injury. "With all due and sincere respect to Antrel Rolle, who is a wonderful player, he is simply not medically trained or qualified to make such a statement," Namias said on Thursday. "The people who run NFL teams are ultra conscientious, and there's a very good reason why 21 of the 32 member clubs use FieldTurf."

But when the Giants took to the field to christen the new stadium during Tuesday's open practice, some players said the turf felt soft and slippery.

"I thought it was real slippery," wide receiver Steve Smith said. "We were all slipping and stuff. Hopefully it settles in when more people do stuff on it."

Rolle said he couldn't put his finger on what the turf felt like.

"I don't know what it was," Rolle said. "My feet were burning at the bottom on the turf. I was slipping on each and every play. It just didn't feel good to me at all. I can't lie to you about that. I am not one to really complain or make excuses or anything but they should definitely look into that as far as playing on that field in the future during the season."

Rolle said he initially thought he was the only one who felt a burning sensation in his feet.

"I thought maybe it was just me and my cleats," Rolle said. "But everyone's feet were burning, guys had a hard time gripping, they were getting caught a lot."

Coughlin said Hixon was wearing the proper, recommended cleats for the turf. Hixon, a key contributor on special teams and a highly respected veteran in the locker room, was at the team facility early Thursday morning prior to media availability. He was in good spirits, according to teammates.

Coughlin said he didn't want to talk or speculate about how Hixon got hurt.

"There is all kinds of ... you can speculate on whatever you want," said Coughlin, who will now have to find a new punt returner. "Fact of the matter is it was an injury that occurred when he was not hit. He was running up the field and we are just going to leave it at that."

Reese likened Hixon's injury to a "freak thing" that happens in sports -- one that could have happened on grass or turf. The general manager did go over to the stadium on Wednesday to further inspect the FieldTurf, which is the same surface the Giants and Jets played on in Giants Stadium -- except that the new one hasn't been used as much yet.

"We talked about some things that maybe need to be changed in respect to the field," Reese said. "I talked to some people who are in charge of the field [about] the different amount of pellets that are in the FieldTurf, and there's a tray system in the middle of the field where they'll have a Jets and Giants logo that they will take in and out. We are discussing if that is the right thing to do or not."

Reese said that if there are any changes made to the field, it will be a joint decision between the Jets' and Giants' owners.

Namias said a crew worked on Wednesday and Thursday to remove seams around the tray system. Hixon suffered his injury between the 35-40-yard lines, nowhere near the seams.

Defensive end Justin Tuck, who described the field as soft, didn't blame the turf for the Giants losing Hixon for the season.

"You take a risk wherever you play, it doesn't matter, grass, turf, artificial, concrete," Tuck said. "Sometimes you can do everything the right way and it still can have an effect.

"I didn't see anything Domenik did wrong. I have seen Domenik make that cut, that move, hundreds of times and run by people. This time something went wrong. All you can do is go out there and play the game, not worry about it. If you start worrying about something going wrong, that is when something goes wrong."

Tuck believes once the new FieldTurf is used more and it settles in, the Giants will have a nice home-field advantage.

"That ground is really soft right now," Tuck said. "When you get out there more and kind of pack it down more and get more people running on it, then you will see that turf become a fast turf kind of like Giants Stadium was. Time will make it better."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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