The San Fransisco 49ers fell far short of expectations in 2020. However, it wasn’t entirely poor play or shoddy coaching that led to the team’s demise. Injuries decimated the 49ers early in the year and the organization never quite recovered.
In particular, a fateful Sunday afternoon in Week 2 at MetLife Stadium proved to be crushing for San Fransisco.
The 49ers escaped the treacherous turf in New Jersey with a 31-13 victory over the New York Jets, but it wasn’t without consequence. San Fransisco lost multiple key players during the contest, including defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas. Both stars suffered season-ending knee injuries, decimating the 49ers hopes at a playoff run just two weeks into the year.
San Fransisco pushed for an investigation of the turf following their September match-up with the Jets. The league ultimately ruled that the field was “in compliance with all NFL policies” and the 49ers returned to MetLife the following week to play the Giants.
Now that the season is over, Thomas expects to be back for OTA’s later this year. However, he called on the league to take an additional step toward protecting players by getting rid of turf fields all together.
“The NFL needs to do a better job with turf,” Thomas said, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. “It should be all grass fields. We should take care of our players. Safety should be number one.”
How hard would it be for all NFL owners to ensure that all NFL fields are covered in grass? https://t.co/hyZBseWyhe
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 14, 2021
Thomas isn’t the first player to make this plea and definitely won’t be the last. The 49ers defensive lineman has a fair amount of evidence to back him up.
According to Maiocco, the NFL Players Association presented data from 2012 through 2018 that showed the dangers of turf fields. The information showed that non-contact knee injuries happened 32 percent more often on artificial surfaces, while non-contact foot/ankle injuries happened 69 percent more often on artificial surfaces.
With that data, the NFL should try to make adjustments to protect its players. If the league’s biggest stars can’t suit up on Sunday’s due to injuries caused by the field of play, it’s time to evaluate if turf should be used at all.