Field Of Dreams: New stadium surface has players raving.

By Kevin Newell
Jets Head Writer
August 12th, 2003
Jets S Jon McGraw tests the softness of the new FieldTurf on Bengals' RB Brandon Bennett Sunday
Jets S Jon McGraw tests the softness of the new FieldTurf on Bengals' RB Brandon Bennett Sunday
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - There were several stars Sunday in the Jets otherwise meaningless 28-13 pre-season victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Co-Tenant Stadium.

The first-team offense scored on its initial possession for the second consecutive game. The first-team defense was in mid-season form. And Wes Bautovich and Troy Grant kept their chances of making the team alive with interception returns of 78 and 35 yards, respectively.

But if Gang Green had to hand out a game ball for overall performance, it would have gone to the new FieldTurf surface. "The field is excellent," says cornerback Ray Mickens. "It's going to help the secondary as far as speed-wise. Offensively, with all the fast guys we have, like Santana Moss and Kevin Swayne, it should be fun to watch those guys play on it."

Moss could hardly contain is glee about the new runway his fleet feet will be working on for eight regular season games.

"It's like a little kid in Candy World, seeing that there is so much you can do on it," says Moss. "You know how kid's are, they're crazy about candy. So when you're a runner and you are playing on a surface like that, it just picks you up to know that, 'Hey, I have a good surface. I have a surface I can take advantage of.' That's how I feel now."

FieldTurf, a Montreal-based company whose CEO, John Gilman, was a former quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, has been the system of choice for many NFL and Division I football teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, and University of Nebraska.

It also is prominent at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and its field at the Fanny Blankers-Koen Sportscomplex in Almere, Holland is FIFA recommended.

FieldTurf's composition is an interesting combination. The fibers consist of a polyethylene and polypropylene blend that is treated and tufted into a unique porous surface backing. The precise pattern of the fibers gives it a real grass look and feel. The patented ground rubber and silica sand infill, interacting with the synthetic grass fibers, provides what the company calls the ultimate footing for athletes. The company also claims to have 10 times more insole per square foot, which acts as a cushion.

The rubber is part cryogenically treated tires and recycled athletic shoes.

FieldTurf's partnership with Nike has produced the Nike Grind, which is part of the footwear giant's Re-Use-a-Shoe program where people turn in their old Nike footwear, which in turn becomes the rubber mix for FieldTurf's infill.

The Jets have been acclimated to the surface for some time being that one outdoor field and the indoor field at their Hofstra University facility are both FieldTurf. So the transition has been a smooth and welcomed one.

"It's what we practice on. We're used to it," says Curtis Martin. "The grass that we had was bad for us as well as the other teams. I just think it evens out the playing conditions a little better. I like it. We like it. It's like having a turf without the turf field - without the hardness. I'm glad we have it."

Martin, a self-professed better runner on a synthetic surface, last played his home games on turf while at the U. of Pittsburgh. But to him, that AstroTurf surface and FieldTurf are like night and day.

Particularly when it comes to the game-in and game-out punishment an NFL running back takes on a traditional turf surface.

"AstroTurf is more like concrete," Martin says. "This is more like grass. It feels just like grass except that you have better traction."

The only downside of the FieldTurf surface is that it appears to make the football slicker in the rain as opposed to grass. The reason being, a grass field drains faster whereas FieldTurf takes longer to disperse rain.

That was evident Sunday by the 10 combined fumbles, numerous center-quarterback exchange faux pas', and several under thrown or intercepted balls. The Jets will have to adjust accordingly. That's a small price to pay when you consider the alternative.

Having replaced the failed and horrendous grass tray system - which the torrential rains would have rendered a quagmire had Sunday's game been played a year ago - the benefits of the FieldTurf system should reap plenty of rewards.

Not only will the Jets play their home games on a consistent surface, it will improve and accentuate the speed of players such as Mickens, Moss, Martin, John Abraham, and Sam Cowart. The results should be interesting to say the least.

"It's definitely going to benefit us," says Mickens. "No question about it. The conditions that we had [Sunday], that grass would have been sloppy and everything would have been a lot slower.

"This benefits fast and quick players. Personally, I like it a whole lot because it just makes me that much quicker. I'm a lot quicker and faster on this than I am on grass."

Says Moss: "We had a pretty good game when it came to playing in the rain. Last year's field, if it rained like that, you might as well have counted us out. It came to the point where somehow routes were not even routes because you had to slow down and do everything in slow motion. Just knowing that's behind us, now we can just go out and have fun with it."

Translation: More excitement and more scoring. At least on the surface.

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