ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Following the season-ending injury to four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the artificial turf at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands on Monday night, the Bills are amplifying an NFL Players Association initiative to switch all of the league’s fields to natural grass.
“As far as grass goes, we’ve been pushing for this for a long time as players,” Bills quarterback Josh Allen said Wednesday.
“The way our bodies feel after turf games, after turf practices for that matter, it’s significantly different than on grass,” Allen added. “You can bring up all the statistics for this and that but as players we feel it and we know it. … Our new stadium is going to have grass and looking forward to that day. But got to figure out a way for everyone to get grass.”
Lloyd Howell, executive director for the NFLPA, issued a statement Wednesday morning saying NFL players “overwhelmingly prefer it and the data is clear that grass is simply safer than artificial turf.” Howell said the issue “has been near the top of the players’ list during my team visits and one I have raised with the NFL.”
Howell said in his statement they know there is an investment to making such a change. But he said there’s a bigger cost to the NFL if the league keeps losing its best players to “unnecessary injuries.” He noted the NFL flips surfaces to grass for World Cup or soccer exhibitions.
“But artificial surfaces are acceptable for our own players,” Howell said. “This is worth the investment and it simply needs to change now.”
Micah Hyde, one of Buffalo’s defensive captains, said he has been “an advocate for grass fields for a long time.”
“I just feel like this turf you definitely feel different running around for a two hour practice, let alone in the game running full speed and cutting and tackling, hitting the ground, getting up, all that type of stuff.” Hyde said. “Turf is awesome for a lot of stuff that they like to do in the stadiums and concerts and all that, keeps it nice and pretty and green and all that but big grass guy for sure.”
Bills pass rusher Von Miller blames turf for the ACL injury that has him on the physically unable to perform list to start this season. He joined a campaign to get grass in all NFL stadiums.
“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.”
Allen said he felt “gutted” for his QB contemporary after seeing Rodgers get hurt on the fourth snap his debut game with the Jets.
“I felt like I have a pretty good relationship with him and you know, a first-ballot Hall of Fame guy,” Allen said. “Obviously the whole offseason and the hype surrounding that, and for that to go down that way friggin’ sucks and I hate that for him. He’s such a good dude, he’s a fantastic player. I hate to see that.”
The Bills have played home games on artificial turf surfaces since Rich Stadium opened in 1973. The team’s new stadium opening in 2026 will have a grass field.
Bills coach Sean McDermott called himself “a big fan personally of grass fields.”
“I feel like overall that’s what the players want,” McDermott said. “I get the gist that’s what they want. At the end of the day I get it. But I appreciate the NFL’s attention to making the fields as safe as possible.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday on ESPN’s “First Take” that the playing surface is a “complex issue,” and part of the collective bargaining agreement covered the use of science to measure injuries. The league and the union use the same data to gauge injuries.
Goodell noted Rodgers had one of two Achilles tendon injuries in the NFL’s first week, with the other on grass.
“That is where we make decisions, on the basis of science, not because I see an injury that I don’t like,” Goodell said.
“Ultimately, I want our experts to come back and give it to us and that is why we have engaged with this process and actually accelerated the process with the NFLPA to be able to get that kind of data so we can make those kinds of decisions.”
The union has asked for all grass fields for years.
The NFLPA in April pointed to studies from 2012-22 that it says show a significant increase in non-contact injuries on artificial surfaces vs. grass fields. The NFL has defended the use of artificial turf, pointing to 2021 when the numbers for injuries on both surfaces were close.
Rodgers argued for grass all over the league last November while with the Green Bay Packers. He said some artificial surfaces are softer, creating more wobble when the foot hits the ground.
“It’s that wobble that can cause some of these non-contact knee injuries that we’ve seen,” Rodgers said at the time. “I’m not sure if that’s the standard that’s set for that type of surface or it’s the installation of that surface, but a lot of that could be just done away with if we had grass in every stadium.”
Agent Drew Rosenhaus echoed the NFLPA’s demand on social media Wednesday, sharing the union’s post.
“It’s a no brainer,” Rosenhaus wrote. “If the Owners care about their players & want to win, then they will make the switch! I encourage the leaders at the NFL to push for this change. It’s for the good of the players & the game itself.”
A new artificial surface was installed this year at MetLife Stadium. Jets coach Robert Saleh said Tuesday that he didn’t see the surface as being an issue in Rodgers’ injury.
The 39-year-old quarterback got hurt when he was taken down by Bills defender Leonard Floyd.
“If it was a non-contact injury, then I think that would be something to discuss, obviously,” Saleh said. “But that was kind of forceable, I think that was trauma induced. I do know the players prefer grass and there is a lot invested in those young men.”
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.