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Urlacher lobbies for artificial turf at Soldier Field

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and his teammates made it clear Saturday how they felt about poor grass conditions at Soldier Field that forced the cancellation of the previous night's practice there.

"It's a joke," Urlacher said. "I don't understand why they can't have the field ready. ... I think coach (Lovie Smith) did the right thing not letting us practice on that stuff."

Bears players called for a switch to an artificial playing surface at Soldier Field after the "Family Fest" practice at the stadium was canceled due to dried-out sod.

The Bears immediately returned to Bourbonnais for a late-night closed practice Friday night that ended at about 10:45 p.m. ET, then came back out for a 2:30 p.m. practice here Saturday.

Chicago Park District officials failed to put enough water on 3½-week-old sod, causing the seams to buckle.

It's not the first issue with Soldier Field's sod, but most of the problems have been in November and December. Urlacher urged the team to go to an artificial surface.

"I don't understand why they don't have FieldTurf, yet," Urlacher said. "We're a fast team. We play fast on FieldTurf. The injury issues aren't as bad as they used to be (with artificial turf). They've gone down a lot in the last few years with the way they made the turf and stuff. So I don't understand it.

"Use our speed. You know we can run. Let us go out there and run."

Urlacher was hardly alone in calling for a change.

"I like artificial grass: no pot holes, no dips in the ground, and things like that," wide receiver Devin Hester said. "When you're coming out of breaks (on FieldTurf), it's a nice, tight grip. ... Coming out of your breaks is easier and you don't have to worry about slipping and things like that. It's more consistent."

Team management has considered an artificial surface in the past, but decided against it in favor of player safety.

Player rep and kicker Robbie Gould said safety with the grass field is a real concern when it's in a poor state. He urged the NFL to get involved in improving the Soldier Field playing surface.

"Just like last year in Minnesota, that field was frozen, Brett Favre ended his career on a sack by hitting his helmet on the turf," Gould said, referring to a game moved outdoors when the Metrodome roof collapsed. "So I think at the end of the day they should get involved.

"To what point or what extent will they get involved, I don't know."

The Bears are scheduled to play the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field on Saturday in their preseason opener.

"I understand some of the players will want FieldTurf and some will want grass," coach Smith said. "We have a grass field right now and for whatever reason it wasn't ready then.

"But I'm sure we will have the field ready next time. We can't really get into that. We're going to play on the surface."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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