The Green Bay Packers' playing surface generally ranks in the middle of the pack, according to a survey trumpeted last week on the NFL Players Association Web site and provided in full to PackerReport.com by the NFLPA. The biennial survey is the most recent available, from the 2006 season, so it doesn't take into account the Packers' new part-synthetic surface that debuted last season.
Fifty-two Packers players responded to the survey. Almost 81 percent of them ranked the Lambeau Field playing surface as excellent (32.7 percent) or good (48.1 percent). That's well above the league average of 70.9 percent.
However, that latter figure was sunk by the players' opinions of the playing surfaces of the Pittsburgh Steelers (a league-worst 14.6 percent excellent or good), New England Patriots (17.7 percent excellent or good), Minnesota Vikings (31.7 percent excellent or good), Chicago Bears (32.4 percent excellent or good), Tennessee Titans (43.9 percent excellent or good) and the New York Giants and Jets (combined 47.7 percent excellent or good for their shared stadium).
Sixteen teams' players ranked their stadium's playing surface at a higher level than the Packers ranked Lambeau.
Of course, weather impacts a field's condition, and Green Bay plays in the most-extreme climate in the NFL. To their credit, the Packers rank far better than Chicago — 5.8 percent of Packers players ranked Lambeau a poor playing surface, compared to 24.3 percent of Bears players asked about Soldier Field — and outdoor, climate-impacted grass stadiums in Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
The domed Metrodome in Minneapolis also ranked poorly (30.7 excellent or good, according to Vikings players) while the domed Ford Field in Detroit ranked as one of the best (96.4 percent excellent or good, according to Lions players).
The survey asked players to rank the three-best grass playing fields, with three points for the best field, two points for second-best and one for third-best. Of the 19 teams with grass fields in 2006, Lambeau Field ranked 10th.
The survey also asked players to rank the three-worst grass playing fields by the same three-two-one system. The Packers received the sixth-most points.
Lambeau Field's ranking has slipped since the first survey in 1994. Lambeau was ranked as having the eighth-best surface (and 15th-worst) among all stadiums — regardless of surface — in 1994, slipped to 10th (and 21st) in 1996, 10th (and 20th) in 1998, 10th (and 20th) in 2000, 15th (and 16th) in 2002, and 17th (and 15th) in 2004.
That slide through the rankings was one reason why the Packers decided to install a part-synthetic playing surface at Lambeau for 2007. That field held up extremely well last season.
Not surprisingly, players throughout the league overwhelmingly favored grass fields over artificial (72.7 percent to 18.1 percent, with 9.2 percent stating no preference), including 70.0 percent of the Packers who answered the survey.
The players' No. 1 request was to "make all fields grass," according to the NFLPA summary. Players said grass fields were 7.1 percent more likely to cause injuries, compared to 64.9 percent for artificial; 4.9 percent less likely to cause soreness and fatigue, compared to 73.9 percent for artificial; were 2.3 percent more likely to shorten a player's career, compared to 67.1 percent for artificial; and were 2.4 percent more likely to negatively impact a player's life after football, compared to 61.2 percent for artificial.
Also, the role of the groundskeepers at grass-field stadiums shouldn't be understated. League-wide, 98.9 percent called their role very important (89.9 percent) or important (9.0 percent), including 100 percent of the Packers.
The Cardinals were the only team whose players unanimously ranked their playing surface as either excellent (92 percent) or good (good).
League-wide, Tampa Bay received the most 3-2-1 points in voting for the best grass field, followed by Carolina and Arizona. Nos. 17-19, in order, are Pittsburgh, New England and Oakland.
Seattle received the most points for best artificial surface, followed by Detroit and Baltimore. Buffalo was last, just ahead of Minnesota.
New England received the most 3-2-1 points in voting for the worst grass field, followed by Pittsburgh and Oakland. Nos. 19-17, in order, were Arizona, Carolina and Jacksonville.
Giants Stadium, home of the Jets and Giants, received the most points for worst artificial surface, followed by Minnesota and Dallas. Detroit, followed by Baltimore and Seattle, received the fewest points for worst artificial field.
Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com