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They say the Vet Stadium turf is hard as concrete

Maybe that's why last week it was treated like piece of Philly highway.

By ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 28, 2000


You might think the pain-inflicting artificial turf at Veterans Stadium gives Philadelphia an advantage in Sunday's wild-card playoff game against the Bucs. But the Eagles hate it as much as any opponent.

The field's reputation as a potential career-ender is notorious, and it won't get better this week with Philadelphia coaches and players lodging a new complaint about the surface.

The Eagles insist the turf is too oily and slippery because of the way officials of the city-owned stadium treated it for ice and snow last week.

The team said stadium officials failed to cover the surface and allowed snow and ice to accumulate before the regular-season finale against Cincinnati on Sunday. In an attempt to remove the ice, the field was covered with calcium chloride, a chemical typically used to thaw ice on roads.

The field was cleared, but an oily residue remained. Eagles coach Andy Reid said players had problems gripping and throwing the ball against the Bengals because the substance made the ball a greasy mess. The Eagles fumbled five times, and each quarterback threw an interception.

"It was on the players' shoes, on their bodies, on their hands," Reid said. "They couldn't lick their fingers unless they wanted to taste that stuff. Plus, it was water-resistant. It was a problem."

Although steps were taken to alleviate the problem, they didn't occur before another contentious discussion between the team and the city. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that city officials apparently were reluctant to accept blame or do something to correct the problem. The team has a long history of disputes with the city over the stadium, and only recently did the parties reach an agreement to build a new stadium.

As far as the latest trouble, the team said the carpet was steam cleaned Wednesday, but the apparent resolution did not stop Reid from mocking the situation when he spoke to the bay area media.

"We were just going to put a few fire hoses on it and turn it into an ice skating rink," Reid joked. "We're working it out, and it'll be perfect once you get up here."

Rain and snow are forecast for Philadelphia on Saturday, but even if better clean-up measures are taken, the turf will be far from perfect.

The Eagles and the Philadelphia Phillies have shared the stadium for years. Because portions of the turf are removed for the pitching mound and basepaths, the field has unseemly seams that many players say have resulted in injuries.

The most famous case may be former Bears receiver Wendell Davis, who ruptured the patella tendons in both knees on a freakish-looking play in 1993. Davis' feet got caught on the turf as he tried to make a catch.

But Reid said the latest injury may top them all.

"We lost one of the chain gang members this past weekend," he said. "He got cold-cocked as he hit the turf. He was knocked down and knocked out."

There won't be a farewell for this wretched turf, but Sunday's game may be its last. Plans call for the city to replace the carpet with Field Turf, the playing surface the Devil Rays installed at Tropicana Field.

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