Fans, players share common ground on turf

From the stands, it looks almost like grass. Down on the field, it looks like a welcome mat with a ground-up Goodyear in it.

And on a hot day like yesterday, it smells like burnt rubber, too.


The Ravens and 14,431 of their fans got their first glimpse, feel and sniff of the new Momentum Turf System during Ravens Fan Day at M&T; Bank Stadium yesterday morning. The first artificial surface in the history of professional football in Baltimore got mostly positive reviews for its look and feel, but fans and players are concerned whether it's as safe as natural grass.

"I loved the surface. It was real soft, pretty fast," quarterback Chris Redman said. "I am glad we are going to get some consistency."


Players sized up the new surface during a 40-minute touch football game, the first action on the turf, installed in July.

The Momentum Turf System features 2 1/2 -inch-long blades of polyethylene fibers with a base of sand and granular rubber. The Ravens switched to the artificial surface to improve field conditions late in the season and allow more flexibility in scheduling other events at M&T; Bank Stadium.

In previous years, wear and tear forced the team to re-sod the field two to three times a season.

"Where we are really going to like it is November, December and January," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "The players will enjoy it [and] like the consistency of it."

The main concern is the likelihood of injury on the turf. Other artificial surfaces, harder than natural grass, are known for causing more injuries, but on initial inspection, the Momentum system seems softer than most.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be," offensive lineman and grass partisan Edwin Mulitalo said. "It gave a little bit. That is the most important thing.

"Obviously, the intent is to become safer. We'll see after the season," he said.

Players will need time to adjust to the feel of the new surface. Kicker Matt Stover attributed a missed field-goal try in yesterday's game to his plant foot getting caught in the turf.


Some players had experience with the turf from their college days.

"It felt just like grass," said linebacker Terrell Suggs, who played against schools with similar turf while at Arizona State. "But you don't get dirty. In football, you've got to get dirty."

The surface may not stain a diving player's uniform, but it does leave bits of rubber between the toes of a sandal-wearer. A spiked ball kicks up a storm of rubber granules.

After the game, as fans made their way onto the field for an autograph session, most ran their hands through the synthetic blades, some trod on it barefoot, and little children gave up their piggyback perches to play on the polyethylene, rubber and sand meadow.

"I think this looks like grass. I'd like to put this on my front lawn," said Annapolis' Joe Feeney Jr., from his seat in the stands.

His son Joe Feeney III chipped in: "Last year, it looked like they were playing on dirt. Like a sandlot. ... The field needs to be part of the experience. We can be proud of this."


By the end of the game, the vibrant Fieldgreen color of the turf had become darker in spots where the sand-like rubber granules were kicked up to the surface. Maintenance workers will rake over the field after play to return it to its original luster.

"As far as aesthetics, it looks beautiful. But I have a fear of the future. Is it going to cost a player a career?" Baltimore native Michael Sanders said. "I can't see why they changed. I guess economically, it's better ... but is that worth someone blowing out a knee?"

NOTES: Suggs, a rookie, played in a number-less jersey because his real No. 55 jersey disappeared before yesterday's game. "I think Ray [Lewis] got me," he said. "It's definitely a sign of more to come." ... The players have their first day off of camp today. The Ravens resume practicing tomorrow. ... In yesterday's non-contact scrimmage, the starters beat the backups, 14-7. Redman's first pass was intercepted by safety Will Demps, who returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. Redman later threw a game-winning, 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Terry Jones. In his first appearance at the stadium, rookie quarterback Kyle Boller was picked off twice.

Sun staff writer Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.