Packers-Raiders In Winnipeg Played On Shortened Field Due To Issues
Thursday's Packers-Raiders game in Winnipeg was played on an 80-yard field instead of the standard 100 yards due to "concerns over the condition" of the turf at Investors Group Field, according to Judy Owen of the CP. The end zones were "marked with bright, orange pylons at the 10-yard lines" to indicate the new field parameters, and there were no kickoffs. Game officials and staff from both teams prior to kickoff were "on the field examining patches of turf that covered the spots where the goal posts for 110-yard CFL games were removed, which were in the playing surface of the NFL end zones." The home field of the CFL Winnipeg Blue Bombers had been "converted for the smaller NFL size with new painted lines, goal posts at the back of the new end zones and turf added all around the field to cover the regular asphalt" (CP, 8/22). Workers were "trying to tamp down a square of artificial turf in each end zone" up until 20 minutes before kickoff (ESPN.com, 8/22).
GRASS PATCHES DIDN'T WORK: In Green Bay, Jim Owczarski notes the NFL on Thursday morning "confirmed ... that the league had deemed the surface to be in compliance." But the "biggest problem" the Packers had, beginning with GM Brian Gutekunst's "thorough walkthrough about four hours before kickoff, were the patches laid over the holes" where the CFL goal posts were located. The grounds crew "eventually tried to glue the patches down, but ultimately it was determined the teams wouldn't play into the end zone." There were also "two removable cylinders in the end zone with turf on top of them that the Packers were not happy with" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 8/23). In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen notes the Packers "around half an hour before kickoff" scratched 33 players from the lineup, including QB Aaron Rodgers and "pretty much all of their projected starters." When the Packers "balked at the quality of the field, any possible remaining marquee attraction had evaporated." Packers coach Matt LaFleur after the game said they were planning to "have all our starters play" (WINNIPEG SUN, 8/23).
SECOND ISSUE IN TWO YEARS: NBCSN's Chris Simms notes this is the second time in two seasons that field conditions at non-NFL venues were "less than ideal." The league had to move last year's Chiefs-Rams game slated for Mexico City back to L.A. due to issues with the field conditions at Estadio Azteca. Simms asked, "How are we not doing our due diligence on these types of things in the NFL?" ("PFT," NBCSN, 8/23). ESPN's Field Yates: "Is it that much for me to ask that we just play games in NFL stadiums, where there's not an issue over the field?" ESPN's Jason Fitz wondered about the goalpost issue, "Why are they just finding this out hours before?" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 8/23). ESPN's Ryan Clark: "NFL, you need to stop being so cute. We're worried about player safety. We want guys to be healthy. Well, we've got to stop being so cute" ("Get Up," ESPN, 8/23). NFL Network's Peter Schrager alluded to the success of last weekend's Rams-Cowboys game in Honolulu and said, "When the NFL does it right (like in) Hawaii, where there were thousands of fans waiting for hours to get in, things can work. When they don't do it right -- and it feels like there were some issues with this thing -- it could end up with an 80-yard field. But I continue to hope that we try these international experiments" ("Good Morning Football," NFL Network, 8/23).
SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING: ESPN's Jeff Darlington notes the NFL on Thursday could not outright cancel the game, as the more than 20,000 fans at IG Field were "paying for tickets." Darlington: "They've got to put something on the field, even if it's an 80-yard field, because they have sold tickets" ("Get Up," ESPN, 8/23). NBCSN's Mike Florio said there was "no way they were cancelling the game, so they reconfigured the field." However, he admitted the game was played under "strange conditions, to say the least," and said it is "just a horrible look" for the NFL. Florio: "The league office has to be so upset today about how all this played out" ("PFT," NBCSN, 8/23).
NOT A GOOD LOOK ALL AROUND: In Winnipeg, Mike McIntyre writes the whole situation was a "complete and utter embarrassment." The game is "going to be remembered ... for all the wrong reasons." The field issues "led to all kinds of ridicule on social media," and it is unfortunate that Winnipeg will "take their share of it." McIntyre: "Like everything associated with the event, this is entirely on the NFL and the Toronto-based promoter, On Ice Entertainment" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 8/23). The SUN's Friesen writes what had been a "bit of a gong show became an all-out comedy of errors" (WINNIPEG SUN, 8/23). ESPN's Mike Greenberg called it a "somewhat farcical game" ("Get Up," ESPN, 8/23).