OWINGS MILLS -– The playing surface at M&T Bank Stadium will be switched from artificial to natural grass next season, and the move is being endorsed by both Ravens players and coaches.
While the organization is not linking this season’s rash of injuries to the current playing surface, players generally believe that playing on grass is easier on their legs and less hazardous. Quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Justin Forsett, and wide receiver Steve Smith all suffered season-ending injuries during home games this season.
“With my surgeries that I’ve had, I can tell after the game if I’ve played on that hard turf or have played on grass,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said following Friday’s practice. “It’s a black-and-white difference.”
Webb said players were consulted about the change before the decision was made.
“I’m a veteran around here, I’ve been here a couple of years,” said Webb, now in his seventh season with the team. “I was kind of involved in the process. They kind of brought some of the leaders together and asked them. I’ve got my opinion in it and threw it in. They kind of made an organizational decision and I thought it was a great decision.”
The Ravens already have natural grass on their outside fields at their practice facility. Most Ravens players prefer practicing outside, regardless of the temperature, rather than on the indoor field that has an artificial surface.
The Ravens practiced indoors all this week with the heat turned up, trying to simulate Sunday’s game temperature in Florida when facing the Dolphins. Webb said his legs could tell the difference, and he added that he believed playing on grass was safer.
“I just walked off practice and I can tell the difference,” Webb said. “We’re looking at the numbers. They say injuries happen more on turf than on grass. Simple as that.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he looked forward to playing on grass for home games next season.
“My thoughts are, I think it’s great,” Harbaugh said. “To me, it’s Baltimore. It epitomizes what Baltimore is all about, the history of football in Baltimore.
“In terms of the way our stadium is configured, it doesn’t get a lot of sun, so that was something that was a big consideration, as far as the turf originally. But our grounds people have done a great job of researching it, and they feel like they have the type of grass now that can thrive there.”
Asked if he lobbied for a grass field at home, Harbaugh smiled and said, “I may have.”
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