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NFL players union boss wants natural grass after Rodgers injury

NFL Players Association executive director Lloyd Howell called upon the league Wednesday to replace artificial turf with natural grass fields in the wake of a season-ending injury to Aaron Rodgers.

Howell said the cost of replacing the playing surfaces is minimal compared to the cost of NFL teams losing top stars to serious injuries due in part to synthetic surfaces.

“Moving all stadium fields to high quality natural grass surfaces is the easiest decision the NFL can make,” Howell said.

Rodgers, a four-time NFL Most Valuable Player, suffered a torn left Achilles tendon Monday night in his debut with the New York Jets when he was sacked by Buffalo’s Leonard Floyd on artificial turf at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

The 39-year-old quarterback, who spent 18 years with the Green Bay Packers before a trade to the Jets in April, will require surgery after going down following only four plays of New York’s season opener.

Green Bay’s David Bakhtiari, an offensive tackle who was a teammate of Rodgers for 10 seasons, tweeted his anger over the turf issue after Rodgers was hurt, noting that some NFL stadiums will switch to natural grass for 2026 FIFA World Cup matches.

“Congrats @nfl How many more players have to get hurt on ARTIFICIAL TURF??!” Bakhtiari posted on X. “You care more about soccer players than us. You plan to remove all artificial turf for the World Cup coming up. So clearly it’s feasible. I’m sick of this. Do better!”

Howell, who took charge of the NFL players union in June, pushed for immediate change in the wake of the outcry over Rodgers being sidelined and a double standard compared to soccer matches.

“It makes no sense that stadiums can flip over to superior grass surfaces when the World Cup comes or soccer clubs come to visit for exhibition games in the summer, but inferior artificial surfaces are acceptable for our own players,” Howell said.

“This is worth the investment and it simply needs to change now.”

Jets coach Robert Saleh said Tuesday he did not blame the turf for the injury to Rodgers, but noted, “If it was a non-contact injury, I think that would be something to discuss.

“That was trauma-induced. I do know the players prefer grass and there’s a lot invested in those young men.”

In all, 14 of 30 NFL stadiums have artificial turf. A new surface was installed at MetLife Stadium ahead of the 2023 campaign.

Union data analyzing last season showed non-contact injuries were more common on artificial turf compared to natural grass.

“The players overwhelmingly prefer it and the data is clear that grass is simply safer than artificial turf,” Howell said. “It’s an issue that has been near the top of the players’ list during my team visits and one I’ve raised with the NFL.

“While we know there’s an investment to making this change, there is a bigger cost to everyone in our business if we keep losing our best players to unnecessary injuries.”

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