Following the criticism of the playing surface at FedEx Field this past January, the day Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III tore his ACL, the NFL vowed to take a more proactive approach in monitoring field conditions.
The NFL Players Association plans to ensure the league is following through on the promise.
In an email to all players Saturday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith stated the union will also monitor the condition of playing surfaces this season to determine whether the footing is as stable and safe for its members as possible.
"Given some of the issues that we witness with respect to unsafe field conditions last year," Smith wrote in the email, which was obtained by FOX Sports, "an NFLPA field inspector will attend and observe NFL-conducted field-testing sessions to ensure the playing surface is as safe as possible."
For now, there will be one field inspector for the union. He will coordinate with the league and teams on which field or fields he will monitor each week.
In the email to the players, Smith writes about the importance of stressing "workplace safety," which includes making sure the natural and artificial playing conditions are up to par and not, as Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said of FedEx Field’s grass in the days following Griffin’s injury, "horrible."
There were plenty of bare spots on the field that day. Many have wondered whether the issues with the field contributed to Griffin’s injury. Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons also tore his ACL in that game.
The Redskins re-sodded their field this offseason, but the league and the union will keep a close eye on the field, especially late in the season. Heinz Field in Pittsburgh is another stadium known to have a notoriously bad playing surface.
Per NFL rules, fields must be inspected by teams within 72 hours of kickoff. Any issues are supposed to be rectified to eliminate competitive and player-safety concerns.
And speaking of player safety, the NFLPA also reminded its players in Saturday’s email about the presence of independent concussion experts, or as Smith called them, "unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultants" on the sidelines of every game.
Previously, team doctors and training staffs were responsible for evaluating and testing players believed to have suffered concussions. But after several players were allowed to return to action despite having concussion symptoms — such as the Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler in a game against the Houston Texans last November — the NFLPA made the push for the independent experts.
"These experts … are specialized in concussion treatment," Smith wrote, "and are there to observe or perform all concussion examinations."