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Cairo Santos: “Reckless” for Bears to play on subpar turf at Soldier Field

The powers-that-be at Soldier Field have 27 days to get the turf ready for the next football game to be played there. Whether they will is a different issue.

The fact that the grass was such a mess for any NFL game played there suggests that the bar is lower than it needs to be.

Kicker Cairo Santos, who spoke out about the condition of the playing surface after the Bears practiced at Soldier Field last week, was even more blunt after the preseason game against the Chiefs.

“I think it’s reckless that we have a product of the league out there, big-time players on both teams out there, and it’s too bad if the field becomes an issue where there’s an injury and that star of the league is out for the season,” Santos said, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Some have blamed the condition of the field on a recent Elton John concert. While every stadium that hosts concerts should have a viable plan for protecting the integrity of the playing surface, plenty don’t. And it’s not as if the conditions were bucolic long before the thing called the Crocodile Rock.

The local MLS team saw it coming. Finley explains that the Chicago Fire announced even before the Elton John concert that they’d play their next home game elsewhere, cognizant that the grass wouldn’t meet MLS standards.

NFLPA president JC Tretter chimed in on on Saturday regarding the fact that the field shouldn’t meet NFL standards. The league has been predictably silent.

Coach Matt Eberflus, who really isn’t in a position to air out dirty laundry on the subject, called the grass “firm” and “good.” He also said the grounds crew was “trying to do their best.” (Many who do their jobs poorly are also trying to do their best. Some would say I know this dynamic all too well.)

So why does this keep happening? Again, even if the owners refuse to regard their players as human beings, their investment in the interchangeable parts of a football machine should be protected.

While the McCaskeys aren’t among the superyacht set, field conditions should never be an issue for the modern NFL, not with the money available to these franchises. It’s embarrassing for the sport, the league, and the teams to have anything other than a perfect playing surface that is never an issue.

And let’s not give the Bears a pass because, for example, quarterback Justin Fields had no complaints about it. He said after Saturday’s game that it’s “always been this way,” and that he used the condition of the field “as an advantage” in 2021.

It shouldn’t be that way, for the home team or the road team or any team. The NFL claims to care about player safety, but it continues to expect players to work on potentially unsafe fields? It’s impossible to take the league’s health and safety mantra seriously until the condition of every field is pristine, and the status of none of them falls short of perfection.