One of the more surreal scenes of the 2001 NFL season will occur today, when the Jets board a bus to Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium—where, upon arrival, each player will make like a kid in a footwear store and try out several pairs of shoes until he finds something he likes.
Of course, the reason behind the Jets' fussiness has nothing to do with youthful impatience and everything to do with safety. The Jets are scheduled to play the Eagles Thursday night on Veterans Stadium's much-maligned NeXturf, which was supposed to be safer and better than the Vet's old AstroTurf but has instead provided one headache after another for the Eagles and the NFL.
The NeXturf surface was supposed to make its debut a little more than two weeks ago, but the NFL cancelled a game between the Ravens and Eagles after both teams complained about the awful footing on the turf. NeXturf executives say they have taken the steps necessary to ensure a glitch-free game on Thursday, but just to make sure, the Jets will conduct a walkthrough practice there tonight in which players will try out a number of pairs of shoes in hopes of finding a fit both comfortable and safe.
"We plan on just going down there and taking about two or three pairs of shoes and having our players go on their field and walk around and see what it is rather than waiting until the night of the game," Herman Edwards said. "I just want the players to go on the field and get a feel for it."
If the Jets are unhappy with the footing and conditions at the Vet, there's a chance the game could be cancelled. With the Eagles eager to finally play a home game and both squads needing this last preseason contest to make final roster decisions, the hope is that this episode of "As The NeXturf Turns" won't end like the last one.
BUSY DAY: Before the Jets bus to Philadelphia, players, coaches and staff will attend a "kickoff luncheon" for the Alliance for Lupus Research at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan. The event will be co-chaired by Jets owner Woody Johnson, who has worked tirelessly with the Alliance in its attempts to find a cure for lupus.