Tennessee Titans questionably make the switch to artificial turf field

Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tennessee Titans announced on Tuesday that they are switching from a grass field to a turf field, and fans and players should be very nervous.

This team isn’t a stranger to injuries, in fact over the last two seasons the Tennessee Titans are rewriting the record books in terms of injuries.

Mike Vrabel has insisted that the soft tissue injuries are the result of players not being diligent enough in the offseason and taking care of their bodies, and he even called out Kristian Fulton and David Long Jr. by name when making this point.

After playing nearly 100 players in back-to-back seasons and somehow finding ways to get the vast majority of those players injured, I expected the Tennessee Titans to spend this offseason firing anyone tasked with keeping the team healthy over that time.

Instead, the team has made one of the worst decisions I could imagine.

The Tennessee Titans did the thing that every player hates

If you asked the average football fan what they knew about turf fields five years ago, the first thing they probably would have told you is that players are faster on turf fields which is true.

However, if you took those same people and asked them now, a fair number of them would also mention that players hate playing on turf fields because it leads to more season-ending injuries.

In the article that the team posted on why they are making the move, they basically admitted that they couldn’t find a way to maintain consistency throughout the course of the season with a real grass field. Slipping has been something that Tennessee Titans fans have gotten used to later in the season, but supposedly this consistency will help the Titans reduce that issue.

When the issue of injuries was addressed, the article said,

"“NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Miller has said previously that the latest technology, and subsequent data, has been eye-opening as it relates to grass vs turf.‘There has been, over the course of the last few years, a decrease in the difference between injury rates on synthetic surfaces and those on natural grass to the point now where we really talk more about answering the question, ‘Can we decrease injuries on both?’ as opposed to one or the other,’ Miller said in a previous interview. ‘That is a complicated conversation that includes discussions about type of surface, the characteristics of the surface, the sort of cleats players are wearing, the activities they’re involved in, probably some atmospheric and weather issues (and more).'”"

The difference in injury rates that they are referring to is this stat from the NFLPA:

"“Specifically, players have a 28% higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries when playing on artificial turf. Of those non-contact injuries, players have a 32% higher rate of non-contact knee injuries on turf and a staggering 69% higher rate of non-contact foot/ankle injuries on turf compared to grass.”"

Despite the league saying that they disagree with those numbers, the vast majority of players prefer playing on grass instead of turf because of just how hard it is on their bodies. Tennessee Titans fans would be familiar with this if they listen to Taylor Lewan and Will Compton’s podcast, Bussin With The Boys.

Before the season started in 2021 Lewan reflected on how painful it was to work on the turf inside the bubble the year after he tore his ACL. These were sentiments echoed by Jeffery Simmons and Bud Dupree who both worked through ACL recoveries with the Tennessee Titans.

In the article, the Tennessee Titans said that this is the same turf that they use inside the bubble.

If this move works out for the Titans it will be purely because of luck because everything from the data to player feedback says that grass should be what all 32 teams are using. I don’t know if this is purely for consistency, if the Titans are doing this so that they don’t spend as much money on groundskeeping that isn’t getting the job done, or if this is just a desperate move to try to prevent injuries by changing something (anything) except for the people responsible for keeping the players healthy.

No matter what the reason is, I don’t understand why this move was made and it certainly wasn’t something that was endorsed by the players.