Bears voice concerns with TCF playing surface

The Bears are used to cold weather, but they have issues with how hard the playing surface could be at TCF Bank Stadium because it isn't heated. Several Bears were pretty outspoken, and former Gophers linebacker Simoni Lawrence added some on-campus perspective.

Despite concerns of Bears players regarding the quality of the playing surface, Monday night's game vs. the Vikings is still planned be played at the University of Minnesota's outdoor TCF Bank Stadium.

The stadium, which opened just over a year ago, is equipped with Field Turf but does not feature any type of heating system underneath, and it has been covered in snow and ice since last week's storm that dumped 17 inches of snow in the area. That storm caused the cave-in of the inflatable roof at the Vikings' Metrodome and necessitated the change of venue.

"We just played in six inches of snow Sunday," Bears safety Chris Harris said of last Sunday's game at Soldier Field. "So guys don't have a problem with playing outdoors, don't have a problem with the weather, with the wind, with the snow, with any of it. But the issue is safety. Minnesota is not equipped for playing outdoor games. A stadium that's been under snow for a month in those temperatures — it's been minus-degree weather up there, the field will be icy — it doesn't make for a safe environment."

Linebacker Simoni Lawrence, who was signed to the Bears' practice squad on Tuesday, was a two-year starter for the Minnesota Gophers and was on campus as recently as Sunday.

"It's just amazing (we're) playing there," Lawrence said. "It was just dumped with a whole bunch of snow when we had that big blizzard. I didn't think it was possible but now everybody's texting me and hitting me up like, 'Hey everybody's out here, we're cleaning the field up.'

"My girlfriend told me everyone's there shoveling, all her roommates, and they're all like, 'The game's going to be here, everybody come and shovel snow.' I think they're going to have a lot of kids out there. But they said it's supposed to snow there again so, while they're shoveling more's coming down."

The forecast for the remainder of the week called for a chance of snow increasing to 40 percent on Monday, when the high temperature was expected to be 19 degrees and the low 9.

"We've been in contact with the NFL (players' association)," said Bears kicker Robbie Gould, the team's player rep. "The biggest concern that the players have is we want to make sure that we're playing on a surface that is not going to create more risk than there already is in the game. Obviously playing on a frozen field will create a little bit more risk for players.

"The NFL, the NFLPA and the Bears and Vikings as organizations will make an educated and a responsible decision as to making sure that players don't get put in a potential for advanced risk."

Bears head groundskeeper Ken Mrock and head equipment manager Tony Medlin were in Minneapolis, assessing the situation, as were officials from the NFL and the Vikings.

Despite the concerns, Gould refuted rumors of a Bears protest regarding the outdoor site.

"There's no protest," Gould said. "There will be no protest. As long as the environment is safe and the conditions for the field are safe, then obviously the show must go on."

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who last week called the playing surface at Soldier Field "the worst in the league," said the team's most serious concern is with the hardness of the field.

"In the locker room, that's kind of the buzz," Cutler said. "That's the concern with the guys. We don't really care where we play but just that that field isn't heated. They can heat it up all they want (before the game) but then we're going to be out there for three hours in zero-degree weather. It's definitely going to be a hard surface."

Lawrence, the former Gophers linebacker, said he didn't know how the field would respond this late in the year, but he said it's a nice field.

Harris has his doubts, but according to him, the players don't have any say in the matter if the NFL decides the field is playable.

"You don't have a choice," Harris said. "They tell you what to do in the NFL. Honestly, you don't really have a voice. It's pretty much a dictatorship. That's the way it goes. It's sad, but that's the way it goes. We don't have a voice as far as what we feel is safe. It's unfortunate."

NOTES

  • CB Charles Tillman (foot) did not practice Thursday but coach Lovie Smith said he hoped to have him back at practice on Friday and available for Monday night's game.

  • LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) returned to practice on a limited basis two weeks after arthroscopic surgery, but he's probably questionable at best considering the less-than-ideal playing surface expected at TCF Bank Stadium Monday night.

  • RB Chester Taylor (knee) was limited at practice Thursday but is expected to play Monday night.

  • QB Jay Cutler has a 103.3 passer rating on third downs in the previous six weeks, which is eighth best in the NFL.

  • RB Matt Forte is averaging 11.2 yards on his 38 reception, which is tied for No. 1 in the league with Darren McFadden.


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