Saints test turf and news........
Saints test portable artificial turf for Dome
New playing surface gets rave reviews from players, coaches
Friday October 03, 2003
By Jeff Duncan
A portable artificial turf being considered for the Superdome drew favorable reviews from Saints players during a test at the team's facility Thursday.
The system is unique because it would use an artificial turf generally considered to be kinder on players' bodies and could be portable if Dome officials decided a removable surface is needed.
A mini-field of 8-foot-by-8-foot trays was installed in the parking lot of the Metairie training facility. Officials wanted to see how the prototype tray system would work once the pieces were put together.
Quarterback Aaron Brooks, center Jerry Fontenot, tight end Ernie Conwell and cornerbacks Ashley Ambrose and Dale Carter tested the surface before the team's two-hour practice.
Officials from the Superdome, NFL and Houston Texans, including General Manager Charley Casserly, were in attendance, as were representatives from two companies considered to have the latest technology in artificial turf -- FieldTurf and AstroPlay.
"I thought it was awesome," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "I didn't know what they meant by the trays, but it looked like it was good and sturdy and it all held together. There were seams, but you really couldn't tell where they were because it all blended together."
The surface drew a thumbs up from Owner Tom Benson. "Well, we're making progress," Benson said. "I think this surface is what we're leaning toward."
The test comes in the wake of a rash of injuries to Saints players, most of which occurred on the 7-year-old AstroTurf playing surface at the Superdome. NFL players last year ranked the artificial surface at the Superdome as the fifth-worst playing field in the league.
"No one likes AstroTurf," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said. "It's old news. The Dome has an obligation to provide us with a first-class facility by NFL standards, and, frankly, AstroTurf is not first-class anymore. It's unacceptable."
Saints players and coaches have praised the comfort and traction of the FieldTurf playing surface at the team's new indoor practice facility.
"It's a huge difference between AstroTurf and FieldTurf," Brooks said. "It (the FieldTurf) won't be as much of a wear and tear on our bodies. Football is already a violent sport. Players don't need to worry about the turf hurting you even more."
The portable system, which allows the Superdome more flexibility, would cost about $3 million to purchase and install, Superdome general manager Doug Thornton said. A permanent infill system field with cover would cost about $2 million.
He said he hopes to meet with Saints and government officials in the next few weeks to determine which option is best for the Superdome and how it can be funded.
"We wanted to see how the turf works with the tray system," Thornton said. "So far, so good. Our goal is to have a new field in the Superdome for next season."
Thornton said a decision needs to be made by Jan. 1 to give stadium officials time to award a contract and plan their spring schedule around the installation.
"If we're going to go with a tray system, we've got to identify a funding source, and it's got to be fairly soon," Thornton said. "We have to know how we are going to pay for it before we award a contract."
UPGRADED PLAYERS: Defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan and cornerback Dale Carter practiced for the second consecutive day and were upgraded to questionable and doubtful.
"Johnathan was sore today," Haslett said. "Dale didn't come through Wednesday's practice real well. We'll see how both of them are on Friday. Both will probably be game-day decisions."
Carter underwent surgery Sept. 17 to have a plate inserted into his fractured orbital socket under his left eye. If he plays, he'll wear a plastic shield inside his helmet to protect the injury.
Sullivan had arthroscopic surgery Sept. 15 to repair cartilage damage in his left knee.
BY THE NUMBERS: 17 - 1-3 starts by the Saints in their 37-year history, including this season. Only twice (1989 and 2000) have they rallied for a winning season. Only in 2000 did they make the playoffs. 161:03 - Minutes and seconds, of a possible 240 minutes, the Saints have trailed this season. They have trailed by double-digit margins for 109:08. In losses to Seattle, Tennessee and Indianapolis, the Saints led for 13:28 (a span during the first and second quarters against the Seahawks) and trailed for the entire second half of each game.
ETC.: The Saints signed former LSU defensive tackle Howard Green to the practice squad and released defensive end Greg White. Green was a sixth-round pick of the Houston Texans in the 2002 NFL draft. . . . Rookie linebacker Cie Grant practiced Thursday for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage damage in his left knee last month. He is doubtful for Sunday's game. . . . Wide receiver Joe Horn did not practice and is listed as questionable. He has a bone bruise and inflamed tendon in his left knee.
Saints test turf and news........
That\'s the last thing we should be worried about at this point.
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