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Grass vs. turf with former NFL cornerback Herm Edwards

June 18, 2024  - By

When your job is to tackle other NFL players to the ground, you learn a thing or two about what makes good turf.

From 1977-1985, former NFL cornerback and coach Herman Edwards spent nine of his 10 NFL seasons playing with the Philadelphia Eagles in the now-demolished Veterans Stadium — known for being one of the worst NFL venues at the time. It had a poorly installed artificial turf field nicknamed the “Field of Seams,” and when you’re a young Herm Edwards who plays to win the game, early turf just didn’t cut it.

Herm Edwards (left) and AT Editor-in-Chief Seth Jones. (Photo: AT staff)

Herm Edwards (left) and AT Editor-in-Chief Seth Jones. (Photo: AT staff)

“The first time, I was a rookie and all those young guys, we got on the early bus. We went to Lambeau Field, and all we wanted to do when we came out of that locker room — we’re just in our street clothes three hours before the game — we wanted to walk on the field,” Edwards says. “We wanted to look at the grass.”

Today, however, has seen massive improvements to what artificial turf fields are capable of, and they’ve become commonplace among even NFL stadiums. And while the two will always have their differences, Edwards says there are many reasons why turf fields aren’t just better than what they were in the ‘80s, they can even be preferable to grass.

“The problem [with grass] is, and I get it, the conditions now when it rains,” Edwards says. “The ball gets muddy. The footing gets slippery at times. Well on turf, you ain’t going to worry about this stuff.”

Edwards says turf can be better and safer to play on in bad weather conditions since it doesn’t react as much, leading to more consistent gameplay when throwing a football or running down the field.

“The game of football now is about scoring points, and how do you score points?” Edwards says. “It’s much safer on turf when the conditions are bad because you have a field that doesn’t change a whole lot.”

While turf technology has improved tremendously in recent times, Edwards says grass technology has also gotten better, especially with the hard work that goes into upkeeping fields.

“They know how to take care of the grass,” Edwards says. “Grass looks good.”

Edwards says playing at the top level on grass can prolong a professional’s career, making it the more popular choice for him and many others. And considering his nine seasons spent in the old Veterans Stadium, it’s hard to blame him.

“I think if you were a player, and I know the guys in my area, you would say you want to play on grass, and I think the guys in today’s world would say the same,” Edwards says.

Edwards says turf is also a popular pick because it more easily allows venues to host other events outside of a sport’s regular season, such as concerts. Plus, combined with the more stable playing field, some athletes prefer turf because it’s a naturally quicker field to play on compared to grass.

But as grass and turf technology improves, the debate on which surface is better will continue to rage on. With 15 stadiums using artificial turf and 15 using either real or hybrid grass, the NFL is still split on the issue, roughly 40 years since Edwards last played on his home team’s “Field of Seams.”

This article is tagged with and posted in Football/Soccer, Industry, People, Turf Use
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About the Author:

Seth Jones, an 18-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association.

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