NFL teams make millions, if not billions of dollars annually, so why are we having to even discuss poor playing conditions that attributed to three players being put on season-ending injured reserve? We have to discuss it because FedEx field was compared to working in a sweatshop by Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson:
Thankfully, the 49ers were thinking ahead for their home playoff game three weeks ago. In Jim Harbaugh's interview with the media today, he confirmed that fresh turf had been brought into Candlestick Park three weeks ago to secure pristine playing conditions.
Normally news of that nature may not even be brought up, but one has to think it will be examined now more than ever. In addition to Harbaugh's comments, general manager Trent Baalke also gave the green light to the new turf: "The field is going to be in good shape.”
Brian Jennings also was asked by the media today about the conditions. Considering he has been the long snapper in San Francisco since 2000, his take on the surface carried some weight: “There’s not a lot of grass on the field but the footing is good.” And from the sounds of it, Candlestick's grass is usually very thin—especially late in the season.
Not to mention only one game has been played on the new surface: the December 30 game against the Arizona Cardinals. When asked after that game how the new sod held up, Harbaugh said: “It was OK, yeah."
Despite being just okay to coach, the biggest thing when it comes to playing is the footing. Footing not only decreases injury opportunities, but it also helps keeps players moving in the most natural way possible.
Respectable playing conditions are one of the most underappreciated aspects in football. Here is a tweet Robinson sent out that documented what the field looked like:
telly.com/01N9CG - Redskin field during our visit to stadium. This should be illegal! Very dangerous surface. It got worst during game—Michael Robinson (@RealMikeRob) January 8, 2013
It's not logical to think that a field is going to look like it does early in the season, but it is logical to think that an NFL organization has enough money and resources to guarantee a top-notch playing surface. Additionally, when hosting a home playoff game, one would think that the host team would want its stadium and field to represent the franchise in the best manner possible.
Let's hope for the sake of every player involved that the new sod/turf at Candlestick helps prevent serious injuries from cropping up. Afterall, the 49ers already had to put on injured reserve a couple of players who could have indeed helped the team in its efforts to make a run at the Super Bowl.