Changes were bound to follow the New England Patriots’ surprising season-opening home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday, but changing the turf? That’s a bit more unexpected, especially considering that the team boasted about upgrading to “the most technologically advanced FieldTurf surface” just four months ago.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss has more details on why the team’s doing this:
The new surface had passed all NFL and Major League Soccer safety standards, according to a Patriots spokesman. The change to another synthetic surface comes as a result of the prior surface not meeting team standards.
Within the last month, some players have commented that the new Gillette Stadium surface had been especially soft.
The Patriots played only three games on the recently installed synthetic surface — two in the preseason and then the regular-season opener. They had one practice on the field, which was two days before the season opener, although kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen and long-snapper Joe Cardona regularly practice on the field.
The change sparks memories of 2006, when the Patriots made the in-season switch from natural grass to FieldTurf’s synthetic turf after a rain-soaked Nov. 12 loss that year to the New York Jets in which players struggled to gain their footing. That year, the team had a two-week window before its next home game. The Patriots have used synthetic turf at Gillette Stadium, which hosts numerous events, since that time.
So, it’s not specifically about the loss, but any issues that showed up there may not have helped. However, it’s interesting that this comes so soon after the last surface was installed, and after the team’s laudatory comments about it back in May:
Gillette Stadium’s new field will feature FieldTurf’s revolutionary new premium system, featuring the industry’s highest-performing monofilament fiber that makes the surface player-friendly, resilient and durable. Along with the most innovative fiber technology in the industry, this state-of-the-art turf system features FieldTurf’s proprietary heavy infill system, which is critical to performance and playability. The result is a surface that plays soft, feels real, looks great and hangs tough.
“We are excited to upgrade our game field to the latest FieldTurf technology” said Jim Nolan, Senior Vice President of Gillette Stadium. “It is our goal each year to provide the highest quality surface for the both the New England Patriots and New England Revolution, and we were eager to take advantage of FieldTurf’s latest innovations for the 2017 season.”
If the surface passed the NFL and MLS standards, this may be more about players’ complaints in adjusting to something new then anything severely wrong with it. And those may have been further exacerbated by a loss. But it’s still fascinating to see this “most technologically advanced” surface they were bragging about just a few months ago replaced already.