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Texans ditching grass field for artificial surface at NRG

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The Houston Texans are ditching their grass field for the rest of the season in favor of an artificial surface.

Texans general manager Rick Smith announced the switch on Friday, five days after the Kansas City Chiefs complained about the turf at NRG Stadium.

Every game, all season

"We've been very proud of this field and very comfortable with it and, like I said, our players enjoy playing on it," Smith said. "That has not been the case this year, and so what we need to do is make sure that we find more consistency like we have had historically and that's the reason why we're doing it."

Chalk it up as a long-awaited change for the Texans after NFL Media's Albert Breer reported last September that first-round pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney told teammates that his early season knee injury, which required arthroscopic surgery, came after he landed on a "hole" in the turf.

"He told me on the field when it happened, he was just like, 'Bro, I just jumped, came down and hit one of the holes on the field,'" then-Texans safety D.J. Swearinger told Breer. "There are a few holes in the grass, so he said he thought he stepped on one of those holes and got hurt."

For years, Houston's retractable-roof domed facility has used a natural grass surface that is grown outside the building on trays, which are brought in and pieced together to form the field.

NFL Media's Randy Moss noted Sunday on NFL GameDay Morning that a handful of Chiefs players complained to him about the surface as soon as they stepped on it.

"The natural grass is grown outside on interlocking trays that are brought in and put together like puzzle pieces," Moss said. "You can see the seams of grass all over the field. One of the problems, though, is that where those seams intersect, you gets spots like this. Holes filled in with sand."

Clowney isn't the first player to suggest that NRG's turf triggered an injury, with Moss noting that "when Wes Welker, then with the Patriots, blew out his ACL on this field, Bill Belichick called it one of the worst playing fields he'd ever seen and that was six years ago. Concerns about this field have been around for a long time."

Ex-Texans punter Brett Hartmann sued the venue-management company SMG and the Harris County Convention and Sports Corporation, but not the team in 2012. As for Belichick, he told Boston's WEEI-FM after the Welker injury that the "turf down there is terrible."

"It's terrible. It's just inconsistent," said the Patriots coach. "It's all the little trays of grass and some of them are soft and some of them are firm and they don't all fit well together, those seams. ... Some of it feels like a sponge, some of it feels real firm and hard like the Miami surface. One step you're on one, the other step you're on another. I really think it's one of the worst fields I've seen."

Smith argued against that on Friday, saying: "Our field here at NRG Stadium has tested very well in the past. ... There's a perception -- I think a misconception -- because of the way the field is put together on the tray system that when you see a seam, it's unevenness, and that just has not been the case historically."

Smith, a member of the league's Competition Committee, told reporters that "our field relative to other grass fields over the years has tested consistently lower from an injury rate," adding that "we've been very proud of this field and very comfortable with it and, like I said, our players enjoy playing on it."

But "that has not been the case this year," Smith acknowledged, saying: "We want the best for our players and all of our decisions are predicated on doing the best for our players and, again, protecting them from unnecessary risk and doing everything we can do to win."

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