Titans installing high-tech artificial surface in Nissan Stadium

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Titans are switching Nissan Stadium to a high-tech artificial surface for the 2023 season.

The move is spurred by NFL studies showing the team's natural surface may have contributed to more lower-body injuries from 2018-2021 than the six NFL venues that use the sort of monofilament fields the team will now turn to.Nissan Stadium

Nissan Stadium's field has been Bermuda sod since the building opened in 1999 as Adelphia Coliseum, but the franchise has consistently struggled to maintain a good playing surface in November, December and January. Nashville sits in a transition zone, where it can be difficult to sustain natural grass that can handle the heat of August and colder temperatures of the late fall and winter along with the lack of sunlight.

The team has worked with consultants and tried different tactics, and regularly resods part of the field or the whole thing. Despite those efforts, the Titans have consistently wound up with an inconsistent field that has not been durable.

Injuries have become a massive concern for the Titans over the last two seasons. The team used a record 91 players in 2021 because of injuries and followed that up with 86 in 2022. While a change of playing surface won’t be a cure-all, the Titans believe it can be one element of the alterations they are searching for to reduce injuries.

Among injuries Nissan Stadium may have contributed to, two players, Caleb Farley and Cam Batson, tore ACLs in the same game at Nissan Stadium in non-contact situations against Buffalo on Oct. 13, 2021.

Slipping on the sod at Nissan Stadium has been commonplace for a long time.

The Hellas Matrix Turf the Titans will install is currently in use at AT&T Stadium (Cowboys), NRG Stadium (Texans) and SoFi Stadium (Chargers and Rams).

It's the same turf the Titans installed in their practice bubble last offseason and they have been pleased with it. It's got all organic infill of cork and coconut that requires regular watering.

Nashville's change will leave 14 of the NFL's 30 stadiums with natural grass: Arizona, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Miami, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Washington.

The change is likely to be met with resistance by the NFL Players Association which has campaigned for natural grass and sees artificial surfaces as contributing factors to injuries.

The largest complaints are about slit film turf which is slated to be replaced at MetLife Stadium, home of the Jets and the Giants. Per CBS Sports it's also inuse in Detroit, Minnesota, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. 

The study cited by Tretter, president of the NFLPA, used data collected from 2012 to 2018 and is strictly turf vs. grass. The Titans are looking at more recent information that pertains to their grass versus a specific sort of turf.

In a Jan. 17 episode of Bussin’ With the Boys, Derrick Henry discussed his feelings about artificial turf with Will Compton and Taylor Lewan.

“I got hurt on a turf field, so you know how I feel about it,” he said, referring to the Jones fracture in his right foot in Indianapolis in 2021. “There’s been so many injuries that happen on turf fields, I mean it’s just proven. I mean it’s not really good for the league and, you know, for our bodies….

“Really, for players, I think we’re just tired of seeing people get hurt on turf.”

The team could also face pushback from the Nashville Metro Council which sees the franchise spending on turf for a building that has three years of life remaining when it could be funneling that money to the new stadium,k which could open as soon as 2026 and will have the same sort of new artificial surface. It’s unclear what the cost of the turf will be, but there was already some outlay associated with the sod and its maintenance.

But the Titans are continuing to invest in a diminishing asset with something they think will benefit their team. 

Mike Vrabel saw such a changeover firsthand when he played for the Patriots in 2006. The franchise was so frustrated with Gillette Stadium's natural grass that it changed to an artificial surface during the season.

The Carolina Panthers are the other NFL franchise that sits in the same weather transition zone as the Titans and they switched to artificial turf in 2021.

Update, 2:30 p.m. CT Tuesday: The Titans plan to maintain their three grass practice fields at their MetroCenter headquarters. The artificial surface that is in their practice bubble and is the model for what they will put in Nissan Stadium can be used more regularly in the months when the grass gets bad. 

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