• Loading stock data...
Sunday, April 21, 2024
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -

Turf Wars: NFL and NFLPA Address Field Safety, but Hard Realities Persist

  • A new pilot program is testing the rotation and post-impact traction of turf fields.
  • The advancing study runs up against economic and operational realities for many NFL teams.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

There is potentially a new wrinkle to the ongoing debate between the NFL and NFL Players Association regarding the safety of the league’s playing fields—thanks to a pilot program of a new piece of technology. 

Amid months of rising tension between the NFL and the union over the widespread use of artificial turf—the relative inconsistency of that turf and the removal of several such fields for natural grass in the 2026 World Cup to meet FIFA requirements—the ’23 NFL season featured the use of the BEAST, according to ESPN, a mobile machine testing field conditions in extensive detail. 

Short for Biomechanical Elite Athlete Shoe-Turf Tester, the BEAST is more than 15 years in the making and is capable of evaluating the specific rotation and post-impact traction of various samples of artificial turf fields. Those scientific properties, in turn, are seen as key factors in whether a player could sustain an injury due to the field conditions. 

Great Debate: Grass vs. Synthetic

The NFL has consistently argued that there is a negligible difference in the overall injury rates between natural grass and synthetic fields. But many players have argued they still feel worse overall and certainly more susceptible to injury on turf fields. The testing with the BEAST is designed in part to help bridge that divide with additional sets of objective metrics.

“We want to provide surfaces that perform best for our players,” NFL field director Nick Pappas told ESPN. “We want them to be able to go out and play and execute and be able to just focus on football.”

Data from this past season is now being aggregated and analyzed for further evaluation, and it will fuel future discussion between the NFL and NFLPA. More BEAST units are also in development, and the pilot program is set to be expanded in 2024. 

The field debate, however, will continue to run up against the stark reality that for many NFL teams, it’s still operationally easier and frequently more lucrative to hold nongame events when they have turf fields. Falcons president Greg Beadles told Front Office Sports last month it wasn’t possible to have grass at Mercedes-Benz Stadium due to the facility’s 50-plus major events staged there annually as well as the downtown Atlanta setting.

“It’s a very tight campus. So we don’t have space to roll [out] a whole field,” Beadles said. “It’s not just our decision where we are located. … It’s just not tenable to have grass.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Everything You Need To Know About the Legal Attempts To Kill the ACC

Four lawsuits involving the conference, Clemson, and FSU could determine the future.

A Bare-Knuckle Fighter Won His Pro Debut. The Far Right Scored a Marketing Win

With Proud Boys sponsoring him, experts say extremist groups will use his success to elevate their ideologies and recruit new believers.
Dec 27, 2023; San Diego, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Kyron Hudson (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half at Petco Park.

Hearings Have Concluded in the Pivotal USC Athlete Employment Case. What’s Next?

The potentially landmark labor case could end the NCAA amateurism model.

Rockies Coach’s Team Plane Cockpit Visit Triggers Federal Investigation

A since-deleted video shows him sitting in the cockpit mid-flight.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Why Ian Rapoport Lives for the NFL Draft’s Chaos


Featured Today

Women’s Basketball Finally Has a TV Deal to Match the Excitement. Now What?

A lucrative new media-rights contract could rectify problems of the past, but the future of March Madness media rights is anyone’s guess.
Mar 16, 2024; Washington, D.C., USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) cuts the net after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels for the ACC Conference Championship at Capital One Arena.
April 6, 2024

How Two College Seniors Helped DJ Burns Cash In on a Final Four Run

Two college seniors are facilitating deals for NC State’s big man.
Mar 31, 2024; Portland, OR, USA; NCAA officials measure the three point line while coaches from the Texas Longhorns and NC State Wolfpack watch with referees in the finals of the Portland Regional of the NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center center.
April 1, 2024

NCAA Has No One to Blame for Latest Women’s March Madness Transgressions

NCAA is still making avoidable mistakes three years after a complete overhaul.
Nov 16, 2015; Bloomington, IN, USA; General view of the championship banners at Assembly Hall prior to the game between Austin Peay and Indiana.
March 31, 2024

How to Make It in Basketball: Become a Manager at Indiana

Inside the Hoosiers’ unglamorous, profoundly rewarding incubator for basketball’s biggest names.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Live Nation
Multiple - USA Careers
Multiple - USA Careers
Multiple - USA Careers

Stanley Cup-Keeper Miragh Bitove is Ready to Protect the Hardware

To safeguard what may be the most-recognizable trophy in all of sports, she’s never more than an arm’s length away from the precious metal.
April 17, 2024

Women’s Golf Has Five—Not Four—Majors, and That’s a Good Thing

The Chevron Championship tees of Thursday outside of Houston.
April 18, 2024

NBA Media Rights Likely Headed for Open Market Next Week

The league is reportedly letting Monday’s deadline pass without a deal.

Rapid Returns: How Technology Is Getting You Back to Your Seat

How Oracle’s POS technology is helping fans get back to their seats faster.
April 17, 2024

NBA Bans Jontay Porter for Life After Gambling Investigation

The NBA found that Porter gave injury information to sports gamblers, among other violations.
April 17, 2024

Warriors Missing Playoffs Has Big-Money Consequences

The NBA is losing one of its biggest postseason draws.
April 17, 2024

Even Joe Biden Is Surprised By Caitlin Clark Making $76K

The president posted Tuesday night about pay disparities in sports.
April 16, 2024

Caitlin Clark Drives Massive WNBA Draft Audience for ESPN

Clark’s coronation was the most-watched WNBA telecast in decades.