The Tennessee Titans have staked a clear claim in the NFL’s ongoing grass-versus-turf debate. They are team grass.
The Titans announced Tuesday that they are replacing the natural turf at Nissan Stadium with the latest innovation in artificial turf. The team cited player safety and a history of injuries at home due to playing games on natural grass in a “transitional climate zone.”
The change comes as players and coaches have weighed in on the injury risk associated with playing surfaces, with many advocating a change to natural grass where artificial turf is already used.
Head coach Mike Vrabel addressed the decision in a Titans release, noting the declining quality of Nashville’s natural turf as the season progressed.
“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our players,” Vrabel said. “We had a lot of problems (with the grass at Nissan Stadium) after a certain part of the season. It’s hard to grow grass. It gets slippery.
“Our turf is not at the level of some of the other turfs. At the beginning of the year, the summer, training camp, the beginning of the season, I see her being very consistent. But as the season progressed and the weather changed, there was a noticeable difference in field performance.
According to the Titans, the team is “replacing the grass with monofilament, Matrix Helix Turf with organic infill to ‘provide a consistent playing experience year-round.’
Vrabel added that the team had previously installed the new turf in the training bubble and that “the response has been very positive.”
The Associated Press reports that the Titans have led the NFL in most players played in each of the past two seasons, largely due to injuries. They set the league record for hitters in a strikeless season with 91 in 2021.
The Carolina Panthers, who play in a similar Charlotte climate as the Titans, replaced the natural grass at Bank of America Stadium with turf in 2021. The team cited wear and tear on the natural turf as the impetus for the change, with the Panthers set to share the field with Charlotte FC from MLS.
Artificial turf in some NFL stadiums has come under fire, including the surface at SoFi Stadium, which hosts the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers and is in the Super Bowl rotation. The turf has been blamed for playing a role in the torn ACL suffered by Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in last season’s Super Bowl. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and safety Ryan Neal criticized the surface in October after a rash of injuries during the Seahawks-Chargers game.
MetLife Stadium in New Jersey was also blamed for a rash of injuries and prompted a review of the surface by the NFLPA in 2020. That same year, NFLPA President JC Tretter called for all stadiums to switch to natural turf until artificial turf manufacturers can produce a proven -a safe alternative.
Turf technology is constantly evolving and has advanced significantly since the wave of AstroTurf fields around NFL and MLB stadiums following its introduction in Houston in 1966. NFL biomechanical engineer and consultant Richard Kent told Yahoo Sports in September that he believes a den grass will perform better than natural grass in terms of player safety.
“There’s no reason to think we can’t build synthetic turf that’s safer and more effective than natural turf,” Kent said. “With the right team and the right resources, it’s definitely possible to do it.”
The Titans concluded that the technology had advanced enough to offer a significant improvement over grass for the upcoming season — at least for the team’s climate in Nashville.