The Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers had a meaningless preseason game cancelled Sunday night due to unsafe playing conditions created by the grounds crew.
What if I told you that the incompetence of the Hall of Fame grounds keepers would lead to the cancellation of the first preseason game of the 2016 season? Would you care? Probably not, but a lot of people in Canton, Ohio Sunday night certainly did.
The Colts and Packers were in unison last night when the declined to play in a meaningless, and extra, preseason game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The painted portions of the field (end zones and center seal) were reportedly like concrete after a painting mishap earlier in the day. Despite their best efforts (too little, too late), the grounds crew failed to make the field playable in time for the 8:00pm kickoff.
Worse, the officials didn’t inform the fans of what was happening until just moments before the game was supposed to start. That led to irate people who had paid top dollar for concessions and merchandise, but at least they’ll be refunded the price of their tickets. Gregg Doyle at the IndyStar outlined just how furious those fans were and how the NFL basically screwed them over earlier today.
As for the field, Michael Silver outlined just what went wrong on Sunday over at NFL.com:
"According to several sources familiar with the field preparation, things went awry after the subsequent painting of logos in the middle of the field and in the end zones on Sunday. Improper paint may have been used, and when it did not seem to be drying quickly enough, someone apparently made the dubious decision to heat the field in an effort to dry it — thus melting the rubber pellets inside the FieldTurf and creating a slick, sticky and (in Baker’s words) “congealed” effect.At one point about 2.5 hours before the game, stadium workers applied a substance that appeared to be paint thinner in an effort to remedy the issue. However, according to a Packers source, one Green Bay employee noticed a label that warned of severe burns when exposed to skin and took a photo of it, showing it to others after the teams later retreated to their respective locker rooms."
Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers had complaints about the quality of the field, and it may have contributed to them losing kicker Shaun Suisham for the year. The field was apparently new, replaced as part of stadium upgrades, but the issue was with the grounds crew and how they handled painting the field.
Stephen Holder at the IndyStar had more on the situation after walking around on the field for a bit Sunday night:
"It appears the grounds crew, long after the league and NFL Players Association officials inspected the preparation of the field earlier in the day, did some touch-up painting to the midfield logo. Since the painting was done a bit too close to kickoff, heat was applied to the paint to accelerate drying — and that’s when things went awry.As was plainly obvious, the heat caused the paint to congeal and harden, and it was clear from the very first time you stepped on it that running on the painted surface was dangerous, at best. Players’ cleats would not have penetrated the Field Turf in the painted areas, which would have resulted in an inability to safely make cuts. After walking on the surface, it was clear the potential for injury was significant.How hard were the congealed areas of paint? Think limestone."
For those who haven’t been on a turf field (like at Lucas Oil Stadium) it is basically plastic fibers that replicate grass and rubber pellets that simulate dirt (which is why you sometimes see a black spray when someone slides or drags their feet).
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There is a bounce to the field and it can be fairly forgiving when you fall on it. But it is still plastic (or polyethylene fibers) and rubber, which both melt in extreme heat.
Basically the rubber mixed with the paint and turned into hard mats all over the field. Not exactly conducive to players running or pushing large men around. There would have surely been a higher than normal number of injuries had they played last night (which would have raised interesting liability issues for the NFL for not providing a safe playing environment).
There is no excuse for the NFL to have this level of botched event. Colts owner Jim Irsay was clearly upset, and even though the Hall of Fame isn’t quite under the NFL umbrella, people will be punished for this failure.
For the two teams, they get a few extra days of practice without having to play in a meaningless (extra) preseason game. It will hurt some of the bubble players, who were hoping for an extra opportunity to impress their coaches in a game situation, but limits the chances for starters and backups to get hurt (or really anyone else).
The Colts play their first preseason game on Saturday now and will be at Buffalo with a 7:00pm kickoff…probably.