Grass always meaner
RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com January 17, 2011 10:24PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
The field can be slippery, no doubt about it.
It has the texture of cat litter and is the color of split-pea soup. Too often, it looks like a guy with a metal detector just finished digging for any change that might have scattered from a hole in Bobby Douglass’ pocket.
And it’s beautiful.
Some time before Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers, Bears coach Lovie Smith needs to take his team to Soldier Field. He and his players need to get down on the ground and kiss that sorry sod. Why?
Because it’s there.
Because it’s theirs.
Before the Bears’ victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Fox broadcasters reported that clumps of sod had come loose during warm-ups and that Soldier Field workers were using green-colored sand to fill in the holes.
In other words, just like always.
Bears players have complained for years about the playing conditions at the stadium, but the volume seems to have been turned up this season. When Jay Cutler calls the field among the worst in the league, as he did in December, people take notice.
In a perfect world, the Packers are among the people taking notice this week.
It’s time to embrace Soldier Field. It’s not much, but it’s home.
House of horrors
Some advice for Cutler and the rest of the Bears: Make the field your own, but don’t shut up about its horrors. Remind the Packers how bad the place is. Let it be on their minds Sunday for the NFC title game.
If it’s a nightmare, at least it’s the Bears’ nightmare. Every night this week, the Packers can dream that they’re mired in the mushy turf at Soldier Field. And, worse, that they’re in their underwear.
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher had some thoughts about the grass after his team’s 35-24 victory over the Seahawks.
“Both teams have to play on it,’’ he said. “It stinks for both teams. I think it’s the same way in Pittsburgh. Their field’s not that great, either, but both teams have to play on it. Our receivers have to deal with it. Our DBs, just like they do. It goes both ways.
“I don’t know if you ever get used to playing on a field like that because you could slip at any time.’’
Funny that Urlacher should mention Pittsburgh, a team that has won two of the last five Super Bowls. Somehow, the Steelers have managed to rise above their awful field. Maybe, just maybe, it’s one of the reasons for their success.
Last month, Urlacher complained about the “horrible footing’’ at Soldier Field, saying Bears defensive linemen were slipping regularly on the turf. For a team that relies on speed, Urlacher said, it’s a very bad thing.
Presumably, it’s a very bad thing for Green Bay, too.
The Packers have the best wide-receiving corps in the NFL. The Bears do not have the best group of defensive backs in the league. If a slick, clumsy playing surface will slow down Green Bay, it’s something the Bears need to celebrate, not fret over.
The concern, of course, is that the turf will negate the speed and quickness necessary to put a strong pass rush on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But the same will apply to Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and the rest of coordinator Dom Capers’ blitzing defense.
At least the Bears are used to playing on it. It’s like playing in a quirky baseball stadium. You know how the ball is going to bounce off the wall. Maybe a double is reduced to a single because of that knowledge.
Maybe the Bears, having played on this field all season, know how to cut without falling so often. Maybe the Packers don’t have that institutional knowledge.
On a poor surface, would you rather be Devin Hester or the people trying to stop him from returning a punt? I’ll take my chances with Hester.
“We probably have one of the worst fields in the league at this point,’’ Cutler said last month. “We did last year, as well. We’ve got to deal with it, and our guys know it.”
If you’re a Cub and you start believing day games at Wrigley Field are the reason you can’t win a World Series, you’re not going to win a World Series.
Jay, the field is your friend. Take advantage of it.
The Bears have more important things to worry about than the footing Sunday. Game-day temperatures could be in the teens. According to Yahoo.com, Rodgers has thrown 22 touchdown passes and only five interceptions in 10 cold-weather games in December and January since becoming a starter in 2008.
Playing in the elements at Soldier Field includes playing on that terrible, wonderful grass. Let’s see how he handles it.
As for the Bears, they’re in the NFC Championship Game. How bad can the stadium be?