INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts center Ryan Kelly is as brutally honest as weekly aches and pains, or a season-ending injury.
INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Kelly is as brutally honest as weekly aches and pains, or a season-ending injury.
Rip up the turf in NFL stadiums. Put in grass.
Please, and thank you.
The grass vs. turf debate was ratcheted up several notches Monday night when the Aaron Rodgers era with the New York Jets was put on hold after just four plays. One of the NFL’s premier quarterbacks suffered a torn Achilles in the Jets’ overtime win over Buffalo at MetLife Stadium when he tried to elude Bills’ defensive end Leonard Floyd.
Rodgers’ left foot appeared to stick to the turf as he spun, and his left calf noticeably spasmed.
Kelly echoed the sentiments of so many anti-turf advocates. He is the longest-tenured Colt – first-round pick in 2016 – and has served as the team’s player rep to the NFLPA. He’s in his second year as a union vice president.
“I think if you polled every player in the NFL, no one feels good if they play a game on turf, right?” he said. “You practice on grass every day and play the game on turf.”
Kelly wasn’t done.
“You can say what you want about Rodgers’ injury and a lot of injuries (but) I do think a lot of guys feel like dogs**t after they play on turf,” he continued. It’s a tough call either way. The majority of NFL teams practice on grass… and play on turf. It makes you scratch your head a little bit.”
Kelly pointed out players in the union for World Cup soccer have insisted they won’t play on turf.
Eleven U.S. cities have been awarded 2026 FIFA World Cup sites, all with NFL teams/venues. Four teams already have grass surfaces. But seven will have to transition from their hybrid/turf surfaces to natural grass. That includes MetLife Stadium, along with stadiums in Houston, Los Angeles, New England, Atlanta, Dallas and Seattle.
“If they can change the turf out for major league players to come in and play a soccer game one time… then you’re losing a ton of money with Aaron Rodgers not being on the field,” Kelly said.
Reinforcing his stance is the fact the Colts, like most NFL teams, routinely practice during the week outdoors on grass and generally only move indoors on turf in inclement weather.
Fourteen NFL stadiums have a grass playing surface. Fifteen have some form of artificial turf. The Colts play on Motz Group/Shaw Sports Turf at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Recently named NFLPA Executive Director Lloyd Howell was quick to react to Rodgers’ injury.
“Moving all stadiums to high-quality grass surfaces is the easiest decision the NFL can make,” he said in a statement released Wednesday. “The players overwhelmingly prefer it and the data is clear that grass is simply safer than artificial turf. It is an issue that has been near the top of the players’ list during my team visits and one that I have raised with the NFL.
“While we know there is an investment to making this change, there is a bigger cost to everyone in our business if we keep losing our best players to unnecessary injuries.
It makes no sense that stadiums can flip over to superior grass surfaces when the World Cup comes, or soccer clubs come to visit for exhibition games in the summer, but inferior artificial surfaces are acceptable for our own players. This is worth the investment and it simply needs to change now.”
While Rodgers’ Achilles injury commanded attention across the NFL landscape, it should be noted Baltimore running back J.K. Dobbins also tore his Achilles tendon Sunday against Houston. That season-ending injury occurred at the Ravens’ M&T Stadium, which features natural grass.
Commissioner Roger Goodell offered the league’s stance during a Wednesday appearance on ESPN’s “First Take.” He admitted the turf vs. grass debate is a “complex issue.”
“What we want to go is on science,” Goodell said. “We want to go on what’s the best from an injury standpoint to prevent injuries, to give our players the best possible surface to play on.
“That can’t be done by looking at a particular injury. It’s got to be done with a real process… to look at it with medical experts, look at it with engineers, look at it with people on the cleats, look at it on every aspect of what could go into that injury.”
Jets coach Robert Saleh told the media he didn’t believe MetLife’s FieldTurf CORE played a role in Rodgers’ injury.
“If it was a non-contact injury, I think that’d be something to discuss, obviously,” he said. “That was kind of a forcible (injury), I think that was trauma-induced. I do know the players prefer grass, and there’s a lot invested in those young men.”
In an ongoing discussion about whether NFL players should compete on natural grass or continue on the turf, Howell said switching to grass is the “easiest decision the NFL can make.”
“The players overwhelmingly prefer it and the data is clear that grass is simply safer than artificial turf,” he wrote. “It is an issue that has been near the top of the players’ list during my team visits and one I have raised with the NFL.
“While we know there is an investment to making this change, there is a bigger cost to everyone in our business if we keep losing our best players to unnecessary injuries. It makes no sense that stadiums can flip over to superior grass surfaces when the World Cup comes, or soccer clubs come to visit for exhibition games in the summer, but inferior artificial surfaces are acceptable for our own players.”
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.