NEW YORK (AP) — Von Miller’s desire to eliminate artificial fields is personal.
Miller is allergic to grass, but he’d rather deal with sneezing and hives to play on the softer, more forgiving natural surface. The three-time All-Pro edge rusher tore his right ACL playing on an artificial surface in Buffalo’s game at Detroit last Thanksgiving.
“This game was built on grass. Grass is safer. It feels better,” Miller said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “I’ve been injured twice on artificial turf, so I know what it does to the fingers, toes, back.”
A big issue is money. It’s costly to change fields from artificial turf to natural grass. It becomes more expensive to maintaining the grass if a stadium hosts other events that may ruin it. Putting natural grass in domed stadiums is even more costly.
The Bills plan to install a natural grass field at the new stadium in Orchard Park after playing on artificial surfaces since Rich Stadium opened in 1973.
“Honestly, when it comes to player safety, if I’m a football owner and I have a football team and my stadium is built around the football players, I would want to have the best surface for those guys,” Miller said. “My football team should always come before my Monster Jam or my concerts or boxing matches.”
Miller, San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and Green Bay Packers offensive lineman David Bakhtiari are part of Pennington’s “Flip the Turf” campaign, urging players and fans to sign a Change.org petition calling for the 16 stadiums that use artificial turf to switch to grass.
The NFL Players Association has long been calling for all teams to switch to grass fields. In April, the players’ union released studies from 2012-22 that show a significant increase in non-contact injuries on artificial surfaces vs. grass fields.
The NFL, in defense of artificial turf, has pointed to 2021 when the number of injuries on both surfaces was close.
“Last year, the gap – much like the NFL’s credibility with players on this issue – was as wide as it has ever been, proving that (as the NFLPA suspected) 2021 was in fact an outlier,” NFLPA president JC Tretter, an Akron native, said in an essay on the union’s website. “Now, 10 of the previous 11 years show the same exact thing — grass is a significantly safer surface than turf.”
The league says it’s a complicated issue.
“The NFL and the NFLPA have access to the same injury information, which is collected by independent experts and shared at the CBA-mandated Joint Field Surface Safety and Performance Committee meetings,” NFL executive Jeffrey Miller said in April. “The committee, including the NFLPA’s experts, believe that simply playing on natural grass is not the answer to this complex challenge. Some artificial turf surfaces have a lower injury rate than some grass fields — and some grass fields have a lower injury rate than some artificial surfaces.
“Our goal is to decrease injuries on all surfaces. There are no simple answers, but we are committed to the substantial, ongoing work with the players and their expert advisors to make the game safer.”
News 4 Buffalo digital sports reporter Jonah Bronstein contributed to this report.