Originally created 08/27/99

Browns' new field is now a sod mess



The Cleveland Browns spent $283 million on their new stadium, outfitting it with the finest in everything to make it one of the NFL's nicest homes.

Chris Spielman wonders what happened to the lawn.

"The field needs work," the Browns' middle linebacker said Thursday. "I about blew my knee out on it. You go and plant and you dig up divots. That needs to get fixed. It's a shame to have such a special place like that and a cow pasture for a field."

Spielman's comment was the most critical, but he isn't the only Browns player concerned about Cleveland's new home turf. Following the team's 24-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, several other Browns complained about losing their footing and having large chunks of sod come up under their cleats as they were trying to make cuts.

"There were some slippery spots," said safety Marquez Pope. "It kind of looked like a bad golf game with all the divots. But it's new. I think it needs to get beaten up a little bit. Right now, it's looking too pretty."

The meticulously manicured field was impressive looking at the start of the game. The Kentucky bluegrass, which was laid in June, was lush and green despite an unseasonably warm summer.

But as the game wore on, it was obvious there were problems below the surface as clumps of grass flew through the air. During timeouts and stoppages in play, a sod squad was deployed to fix the largest divots.

Moments later, they'd have to be fixed again.

"You have to talk to the experts on why the field keeps coming up," said Spielman. "You have to have 60 guys come out and repair divots after a play."

Spielman said the biggest problem was that once he got started in one direction, it was impossible to go another way.

"You can't plant," he said. "You plant and you dig up divots. You've got a state-of-the art stadium with a junk field and that shouldn't happen."

Browns coach Chris Palmer said the biggest problem with the field is that it's new and the roots haven't grown deep enough to take hold.

"We are aware of the problems down there," Palmer said. "Any time you have a new facility, you have to get through that."

Palmer said he noticed a problem with the field during the Browns' first practice at the stadium a few days before playing the Vikings. Head groundskeeper Chris Powell used a 4-ton vibrating roller to smooth it afterward, and Palmer said it was much improved by game time.

The Browns may experiment with some different sod at the team's practice field and could replace problem areas in the stadium before the team opens its regular season on Sept. 12 against Pittsburgh.

"I don't think it will be a major problem" by then, Palmer said.

GIANTS:

With all the big plays that Kent Graham and the Giants' receivers have made in the first two preseason games, it's been easy to overlook New York's lack of a running game.

While the Giants have averaged 96.5 yards, the average per rush is a horrible 2.8 yards.

The solution to that problem might well be the return of tailback Gary Brown. The Giants' leading rusher last season with 1,063 yards, he missed the first two games because of a buttocks injury sustained in a motorcycle accident in late June.

Brown returned to practice on Monday. It looks like he'll start Saturday night against the New York Jets.

"This is a chance to go out and do what I love," Brown said Thursday as the Giants' went through their last two-a-day workout at the University at Albany.

Brown is looking forward to this season, for no other reason than he realizes how close he came to not playing again. He was involved in a hit-and-run accident in late June in Williamsport, Pa., that sent him sliding down the street. His buttocks took the brunt of the injury, but it could have been a lot worse.

"There are always going to be life-altering things in your life and maybe this was mine," Brown said. "I have to take it and use it as a positive. I don't want to get back on bikes. I just have to think about where I could have been."