After Sunday's driving rain that turned the new sod at Gillette Stadium into a quagmire, Patriots Football Weekly has learned that the Patriots finally decided to pull the trigger and do away with natural grass and will install FieldTurf.
Work crews were on hand Tuesday morning bulldozing what was left of the mangled surface with the intention of installing FieldTurf, a synthetic grass surface used in roughly half of the NFL's stadiums. The new surface will be ready for the team's next home game, Nov. 26 against the Chicago Bears. Incidentally, as part of the NFL's new flex scheduling plan, kickoff for that game has been switched from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
The playing conditions at Gillette Stadium have long been the cause of much consternation in Foxborough. Late in the 2003 season the NFL ordered the Patriots to re-sod the area between the hashmarks before New England hosted the Tennessee Titans in a divisional playoff game.
Ever since then the conditions have been periodically called into question. But the debates heated up this season when a heavy offseason concert load, the New England Revolution's home schedule and the filming of the Disney movie "The Game Plan" left the field in abysmal shape. Even the opener against Buffalo was played on a chewed up field that more resembled midseason.
By the time the Miami Dolphins left town after an Oct. 8 defeat, even Bill Belichick commented on how bad things had gotten.
"The field is in terrible condition," he said. "I don't think anybody in this organization is happy about it or thinks it's in good condition. We'll see what we can do about it."
The first plan was obviously to try to re-sod the field in an attempt to improve things. The field actually held up reasonably well in the first game – a 27-20 loss to Indianapolis Nov. 5 – but Sunday's rain evidently left the organization no alternative other than a synthetic surface.
There were reports last month that indicated switching playing surfaces during the middle of the season was forbidden by the NFL, but Patriots President Jonathan Kraft said recently on an 890 ESPN Radio Boston interview that no such rule exists.