MetLife Stadium may no longer have the worst playing surface in the NFL

After years of complaints, the artificial turf was finally replaced (with better artificial turf)

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Finally, an upgrade.
Finally, an upgrade.
Photo: AP

For all of the talk about the new look New York Jets and Saquon Barkley’s contract dispute with the New York Giants, one major change in East Rutherford N.J. has been undercovered — the new turf at MetLife stadium.

The NFL stadium in the top media market in America has been justifiably pillared for many years. It opened a year after AT&T Stadium in Texas, and was designed with none of the creativity of the Dallas Cowboys’s new home. The culinary delights of New York and Northern New Jersey are also largely not present. MetLife Stadium’s most stark problem, however, has been the playing surface that has resulted in complaints from coaches and players at best, and injuries at worst.

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Towards the end of last season, MetLife Stadium announced that a new artificial turf would be installed. The slit film was going out and the company FieldTurf would construct the replacement. The product that has been installed is called FieldTurf Core. According to the company website, it is the “first multi-layer dual-polymer monofilament fiber.”

All of those syllables basically mean that the imitation grass pieces are put together in individual blades. With more space between the pieces, players’ cleats should not get stuck into the turf as often.

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When Kyle Fuller went down last season with a torn ACL, John Harbaugh told the media that the turf at MetLife Stadium did feel “a little tight.” Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall both played for the Giants and have been openly critical of the stadium’s playing surface.

Neither is wearing the Giant blue these days, but Sterling Shepard is still catching passes in the Meadowlands. That turf ended his 2022 season in Week 3 when he tore his left ACL. In Week 15 of the 2021 season, he tore his right Achilles tendon on the same surface. Following a preseason game, he said that he noticed the field felt slightly different.

“It’s a little better but turf is turf to me, you know what I mean,” Shepard said after a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, via ESPN’s Jordan Ranaan and Rich Cimini. “You wish you were playing on the same surface every time you step out on the field. It’s turf at the end of the day … The other one was a little bit, I guess, thinner, than this one we have now.”

In that same story, Aaron Rodgers said that the new MetLife Stadium field is one of the best “surfaces he has seen that’s artificial.” He and the Jets are the headliners in that building this season. If the non-contact injuries begin to pile up and his thoughts on the playing surface change, the stadium will become one of the stories of the season.

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MetLife Stadium could not continue as it was. The stadium being boring is worthy of being teased, but the game participants questioning its safety should be treated with urgency. Complaints were finally acted upon, and MetLife Stadium supposedly has the best artificial turf that money can buy.

The Giants and Jets both play primetime games on the new surface in Week 1. If there is a problem, it certainly will not be missed.