Bears playing helmets line the Soldier Field playing field during open practice at Bear Family Fest at Soldier Field, August 3, 2012. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times
PHOENIX — Owners didn’t vote on a new measure, but they were informed that playing surfaces will be held to higher standards by the NFL next season, a league executive said Tuesday.
“We have policies and what we’ve notified the membership of is that, going forward, the league is going to be much more attentive, much more proactive, much more aggressive in monitoring and advising clubs further in advance, when we don’t think the surfaces are up to standards,” NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson told the Sun-Times. “Then we’re going to put the burden on them to make the correction, at their cost, promptly.”
Anderson said the league might evaluate a field’s conditions during a bye week, then demand adjustments.
“Even if that means you’ve got to re-sod a portion or all of this field prior to your next contest, then we’ll have that prerogative,” Anderson said.
The conditions at Soldier Field have been questioned and scrutinized, most notably when the Bears cancelled “Family Fest” in August 2011. Anderson acknowledged that Soldier Field “used to” be a concern but it “really hasn’t been an issue” since.
Poor field conditions were most notable when the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field 24-14 in a NFC wild-card game.
“Those are the type of situations we want to avoid going forward,” Anderson said.
Bears president Ted Phillips said he agrees with the league ramping up its involvement.
“At some point, it’s a competitive business, so you want to make sure — with different fields, and different climates — that there is some general oversight to make sure that the right standards are being maintained, whether it’s a grass field or indoor surface,” Phillips said. “It makes sense.”
Phillips said the Chicago Park District, which runs Soldier Field, has been notified.
Meanwhile, Phillips said the Bears aren’t closing the door on someday having a synthetic surface.
“If it ever gets to that point,” Phillips said, “then we’ll sit down with the Park District and consider alternatives.”