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Spielman blasts stadium’s turf

The Associated Press

Spielman was one of several Cleveland players upset with the condition of the field in the new $283 million Cleveland Browns Stadium, which opened last weekend when the Browns played host to the Minnesota Vikings.

Friday, August 27, 1999

Spielman was one of several Cleveland players upset with the condition of the field in the new $283 million Cleveland Browns Stadium, which opened last weekend when the Browns played host to the Minnesota Vikings.

The turf was too loose, they complained and it was impossible to get good footing.

Spielman, as is his way, didn’t hold back in his assessment of the new field, tackling the issue head on just like he was filling a hole at the line of scrimmage.

”The field needs work,” he said. ”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 defeat against the Vikings, 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 first 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 out 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.

Notes: Starting linebacker John Thierry won’t get a chance for revenge on his former team. Thierry will miss this Saturday’s home exhibition game against the Chicago Bears because of a sprained right knee. Thierry, who played five seasons with Chicago, will be replaced by rookie Rahim Abdullah. … The Browns reduced their roster to 74 players, waiving defensive end Tim Beauchamp and fullback Dawud Rasheed and placing linebacker Jason Kyle on the reserved physically-unable-to-play list. … Thursday’s practice was cut short when lightning was detected in the area. Palmer said the Browns have a device to inform them of dangerous weather conditions. … Rookie wide receiver Ronnie Powell gave up his No. 10 jersey to newly signed quarterback Jamie Martin and is wearing No. 80. In addition, Leslie Shepherd switched from No. 6 to 86, the number worn by waived tight end Aaron Laing.