No Grass Was Better Than This

<P>The first shock was when we showed up at this single use stadium in August and there wasn't any grass down the middle of the field between the hash marks. How could this happen when no one had been here since December?

The excuse at the time was that it hadn't been hot enough for the Bermuda grass to grow. Okay...

After the Panthers pre-season finale against Cleveland, management decided something had to be done. So, they put new sod down between the hash marks. They went with more of a sand-based sod, according to Jon Richardson, the president of Carolinas Stadium Corp.

In fact, the club got something of a break when the games were called off following the September 11th attacks. That meant an extra two weeks for the sod to take root. It never did.

The players noticed something right away, during warm-ups, Green Bay kicker Ryan Longwell was having troubles, "I missed a (bunch) of kicks. I ended up shortening my stroke to just one step on field goal attempts."

By most accounts (but not officially) Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan broke his left leg when his foot got stuck in the turf while chasing Brett Favre. The Panthers top pick will be out 4-6 weeks.

Whenever there was a stoppage in play, there was a Keystone Cop-ish assault of the field by around 20 groundscrew members, each stomping on divots to try and get them back in place.

"We take a lot of pride in the field," says Richardson, "and it's just not where we want it to be. We've got to get it fixed."

Problem is: the Panthers are back home again in two weeks, taking on New Orleans. One thing they're looking at now is installing a thicker, higher Bermuda sod than they did three weeks ago.

Two things we know, the NFL Players Association rated Ericsson Stadium's turf one of the best in the league last year, and the club let groundskeeper Billy Ball go during the off-season for "personal reasons".

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