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NFL turf gurus start preparing MetLife field for Super Bowl XLVIII


Wednesday's health and safety news from the world of football:

* The Associated Press reported that the NFL's turf gurus are gearing up for the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., with an eye on player safety.

... (T)here certainly will be more scrutiny as the NFL uses the game as a test case for possible future cold-weather games. For all the extra attention, Ed Mangan, the league's field director for the Feb. 2 game, likened his job to an offensive lineman's, in which anonymity is its own reward.

"We set the stage for the players and that's our job; if you can't accept that, you shouldn't be doing it," Mangan said. "The best compliment is that nobody mentions the field at all. If they are, it usually means something is wrong."

MetLife Stadium, home to the New York Giants and New York Jets, likely will make things easier for the NFL in one respect. It has an artificial playing surface, which means the league won't have to truck in specially-grown sod as in previous Super Bowls. The re-sodding of Super Bowl fields has become a science, with sod grown up to two years in advance at special farms. (For home lawn enthusiasts, the NFL uses a hybrid Bermuda grass as a base, overseeded with perennial rye grass, Mangan said).

Artificial turf can be affected by snowy or icy conditions but is a big improvement over natural grass, according to Jets kicker Nick Folk.

"The toughest places to kick are the ones that are outdoors with grass, like Chicago and Cleveland," Folk said. "I mean, it's tough here, too, but you don't have to worry about the turf. It's going to be there and you don't have to worry about your footing or falling. If you check it before the game, you've got it pretty much figured out, hopefully. It's going to be interesting to see how it plays out in the Super Bowl, that's for sure."

For February's Super Bowl, the actual game may put less stress on the field than the days leading up to it, Mangan said. Rehearsals for pregame, halftime and postgame activities will bring heavy traffic to the field for up to 20 hours, or about six times longer than the average game lasts.

* David Teel of the (Hampton Roads, Va.) Daily Press wrote about Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, who did not return to Tuesday's Hyundai Sun Bowl with concussion symptoms after a second-quarter collision.

But in modern athletics, thank goodness, concussion symptoms are red flags, and they sideline the toughest of men and women. This Thomas and Tech experienced Tuesday in a 42-12 Sun Bowl loss to 17th-ranked UCLA.

Let's be clear: Even with Thomas healthy, the Hokies (8-5) had only a puncher's chance against the Bruins (10-3), perhaps one-in-five. With dynamic future pros on both sides, UCLA was the best team Tech had faced since the season-opener against Alabama, and it showed.

So absent Thomas for most of three quarters, and with backup Mark Leal lacking extended game experience, the Hokies were pretty much toast. Toss in the defense's worst statistical performance of 2013, and you get a 30-point beatdown, second only to North Carolina's 42-3 Gator Bowl rout 16 years ago in Tech postseason annals.

"It's the worst thing I've had to go through," Thomas said. "I'd rather hear you (media) guys talk bad about me all day long than have to watch a game on the sidelines."

* Seattle Weekly reported that San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Paul Wulff is being sued by a former player for conducting practices without helmets at full speed when Wulff was head coach at Washington State.

* The New York Times wrote about what it called the "lingering" concussion problem in football.

-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor



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