Football season officially ended one week ago. For the 49ers, it unofficially ended 20 weeks earlier.
It ended in Week Two, with a stunning rash of leg injuries on the turf at MetLife Stadium.
One of the players lost for the season in that game against the Jets, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, wants the NFL to ditch the fake stuff and play only on the real thing.
“The NFL needs to do a better job with turf,” Thomas told Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. “It should be all grass fields. We should take care of our players. Safety should be number one.”
Plenty of players feel that way, and for good reason. The teams make gigantic financial investments in players. But then the teams don’t protect those investments by putting the players on the best possible fields.
As noted by Maiocco, the NFL Players Association presented data last year from 2012 through 2018 showing non-contact knee injuries happened 32 percent more often on artificial surfaces and non-contact foot/ankle injuries happened 69 percent more often on artificial surfaces.
While grass may be a challenge in some locations, the Packers have impeccable grass at Lambeau Field. If they can do it in Wisconsin, it can be done anywhere.
Of course, some teams don’t do grass well, either. For some teams, that’s because the field is shared with a college team — and because the stadium periodically hosts high-school games. Throw in the profit grab that comes from staging concerts and other events in the venue, and it becomes easier and cheaper to go with plastic grass.
The easiest solution comes from building new stadiums with a grass field that slides in and out of the building, as it does in Arizona and Las Vegas, along with the renovated Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London. If possible, stadiums should be reconfigured to add that feature.
It’s obviously not something that could be adopted quickly, but it should be a priority. Although the league has come a long way from the green cement used for decades in domes and various open-air facilities, the various forms of simulated grass apparently aren’t much better.
The NFL’s sole product is football. Football is played on a field. That field should be covered in high-quality grass with proper footing.
It shouldn’t be hard. Either it is, or the people responsible for the sport don’t care enough to make it happen.