The Chicago Bears’ kicker Cairo Santos will feel more than usual in the first week when he trains at Soldier Field on Friday.
He is also eager to test a new playing surface that he hopes will ease the kick at home starting in Sunday’s season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
Earlier this week, the Bears family reshaped Soldier Field with Bermuda grass, replacing old Kentucky bluegrass.
Bears coach Matt Ebervlos said the change has been in the works for some time, although it wasn’t implemented until after Soldier Field hosted German metal band Ramstein’s concert on Saturday.
The change comes after field conditions were so poor during the pre-season game against the Kansas City Chiefs on August 13 that they came to the attention of NFL Players Association president J.C. Tretter, who tweeted that the league and teams “clearly need to reassess what is An acceptable surface for players to compete on.”
“We feel it would be a nice deck,” Eberflus said. “It will be a quick deck, and I think it will help us out. … We want a long, fast sports football team. So this is a benefit to us.”
Santos was honest about field conditions during Family Fest practice on August 9 and the Chiefs’ Game, the only show at Soldier Field this year. He noticed how he walked around before practice to spot the pesky holes and said he had to be careful over the years on long kicks because of the grass’ effect on the plant’s feet.
“I’ve seen better,” he said after practice. “That’s just what we have to deal with.”
He now hopes the new lawn will be stronger and cause fewer problems.
“Bermuda has always been a shorter grass. It hasn’t been long, it was this type of lobster in the past,” Santos said. “You can see more of the ball. Feet the plant more compact.
“The other, the grass was uprooted very easily. They just came in the first half and put sand on the ground. It just becomes a sand field they spray green. So (now) it becomes a surface that is used in a lot of places.”
Bermuda grass is known to do better in warmer climates, but Soldier Field spokesman Luca Serra said its success on cold-weather venues, including in Kansas City and Baltimore, helped influence the stadium and decision-makers at the Bears, who used Carolina Green. Corporation to flop. .
Eberfels said the Indianapolis Knights had Bermuda grass in their training facilities. Santos started in Kansas City, where Bears general manager Ryan Bulls spent his previous 13 seasons.
“(The leaders) are in similar weather,” Santos said. “They had a heating system under the field to keep it warm. So I was aware of that, and Bermuda is the best grass for kicking. It’s just in that cold, if you can grow it and protect it, that’s great.”
Typically the Kentucky Bluegrass deck at Soldier Field is reconfigured one to three times a season, and it will be a feel for the Bears crew and Soldier Field how often and when the reconfiguration will take place this season.
Rye seeds are added first when the weather gets cooler and so the grass is a bit hybrid. A late winter would help Bermuda grass survive longer in Soldier Field, which also has a heating system to help preserve the lawn.
Serra said Carolina Green took acres of grass and planted it on plastic trays, a tactic that helped harden the grass before it was brought to Chicago. Serra said a re-emergence less than a week before opening is fairly typical, and the bears were happy with how it turned out.
Santos said he will check on Friday how that happened. He’s not the only Bears player enthusiastic about a change.
“I bring five pairs of cleats every week, so maybe I can stick with one pair,” Cole Kmett said. “I am happy to hear that we are changing it a little bit. I think that will definitely benefit the players and in terms of safety as well.”