Thursday night’s Packers-Raiders game is being played in Winnipeg, at the home of the Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. Suited though the stadium may be for Canadian gridiron football, it turns out the field is not up to the job of hosting an NFL game, not without screwing around with the game’s dimensions.
Canadian football is played on a larger field, with bigger end zones and, importantly, goalposts anchored at the goal line, in the field of play. In order to fit a CFL field for an NFL game, new goalposts need to be installed, the CFL ones need to be yanked out, and the holes in the turf where the CFL goalposts once stood need to be patched. That last bit is no minor concern—the difference in dimensions places those holes right in the middle of NFL end zones, where they pose a risk to the feet and ankles and legs of players not used to accounting for them.
Refitting the playing surface turns out to have been a significant undertaking. Tim Van Vooren of FOX6 in Milwaukee reported that stadium maintenance types spent $40,000 installing new goalposts for Thursday night’s game, and patches of turf were glued into place to cover the end zone holes. Those patches apparently needed re-gluing, and after walking the field ahead of the game, the Packers made the decision to hold a whopping 33 players, including every starter, out of the contest. The condition of the field was still being scrutinized late into the evening, as early fans began entering the stadium:
Lacking any sort of realistic option for improving the condition of the field, the decision was made around 8 p.m. to play this Week 3 exhibition on an 80-yard field. It will not surprise you to learn that an NFL game staged on a shrunken field has to rejigger some rules. Per the NFL’s website:
As a result of playing on the 80-yard field, the game will be played with no kickoffs with teams starting possessions on the 25-yard line and the goal line at the 10-yard line.
It seems perfect that of all the teams that could’ve participated in this ridiculous farce in the last week of preseason where any starters are expected to play, the vagabond Raiders got the primetime invitation.