NFLPA’s Statement on Rodgers’ Injury: Insights and Implications for the NFL

The NFL Players Association is urging the league to convert all its fields to natural grass, stating that it is “the easiest decision the NFL can make.” In a statement released on Wednesday, Executive Director Lloyd Howell highlighted that NFL players overwhelmingly prefer natural grass due to safety concerns, backed by clear data demonstrating that natural grass is safer than artificial turf, as reported by the AP. Howell emphasized that this issue is at the top of the players’ list during team visits and has been raised with the NFL. The players union’s call for change follows the season-ending injury of four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who tore his left Achilles tendon in his debut with the New York Jets on Monday night.

Howell acknowledged in his statement that transitioning to natural grass fields would require an investment. However, he argued that the NFL faces greater costs if it continues to lose its best players to avoidable injuries. Howell pointed out that the league converts surfaces to grass for events like the World Cup or soccer exhibitions, but artificial turf is considered acceptable for NFL players. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the issue on ESPN’s First Take, stating that the playing surface is a complex matter covered in the collective bargaining agreement, which includes the use of scientific data to evaluate injuries. Both the league and the union rely on the same data to measure injuries.

Goodell emphasized that Rodgers’ injury was one of two Achilles tendon injuries that occurred during the NFL’s first week, and the other happened on a grass field. He stressed that decisions are made based on science, not personal preferences. The union has been advocating for natural grass fields for years. In April, the NFLPA referred to studies from 2012-2022 that reportedly demonstrate a significant increase in non-contact injuries on artificial turf compared to grass fields. The NFL, on the other hand, has defended the use of artificial turf and cited 2021 data showing comparable injury rates on both surfaces.

Rodgers expressed his support for grass fields throughout the league in November while playing for the Green Bay Packers. He pointed out that some artificial surfaces are softer, causing more instability when players land on them. Rodgers stated, “It’s that wobble that can cause some of these non-contact knee injuries that we’ve seen. I’m not sure if that’s the standard set for that type of surface or the installation of that surface, but a lot of that could be eliminated if we had grass in every stadium.” This year, a new artificial surface was installed at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, where Rodgers was injured. Jets coach Robert Saleh commented on Tuesday that he did not consider the playing surface to be a factor in Rodgers’ injury. The 39-year-old quarterback was tackled by Bills defender Leonard Floyd, resulting in his injury.

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