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NFLPA alleges league forced Lions, Panthers to play in knowingly unsafe conditions

NFLPA president J.C. Tretter says by the league’s own measure, the playing conditions in last year’s Panthers vs. Lions game were unsafe, but the players were forced to play.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

NFLPA president J.C. Tretter has been quite outspoken about the safety of NFL players, specifically when it comes to playing surfaces. Late last season, Tretter penned an article dropping data on the negative impact of turf vs. real grass—specifically pointing to the type of turf the Detroit Lions were using as one of the most unsafe in the business.

On Thursday, Tretter penned another article on the topic with new data, refuting some of the NFL’s own data. It’s worth a full read.

Tretter also brought the Lions back into focus, this time pointing to their December road game against the Carolina Panthers—who have outdoor turf—as a huge misstep from the league. Tretter alleges that the NFL knowingly forced the two teams to play in unsafe conditions by their own measurement.

The NFL has something called the “Clegg test,” which measures the hardness of the field. If a Clegg test registers a hardness above 100g, the field condition is deemed unsafe. Here’s what happened next, per Tretter:

Last year on Christmas Eve, Carolina’s field failed the Clegg test. For a surface to pass this test, it must measure below 100g (units of gravities), and the meter for this test goes up to a maximum of 150g. When the field in Carolina was tested during the pregame check, it came back as — you guessed it — 150g.

Players reached out and told us the field was way too hard, describing it as concrete. Players reported that they couldn’t even wear cleats because they wouldn’t sink into the turf. When we reached out to the league, they told us they were aware of these concerns and were working to remedy them.

However, instead of delaying the game or finding another way to fix the issue, the league gave the green light to kick off the game as scheduled. Afterward, the league told us that late in the first half, the field finally did fall below the 100g max. But the fact remains that the players in that game had to play on a field that the league acknowledges was not safe. That is beyond frustrating to players and unacceptable in the eyes of our union.

Several players complained about the league surfaces right after the game, and back in January the NFLPA eventually filed a grievance against both the NFL and Carolina for the field conditions.

On Thursday, Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone reacted to this story on Twitter, saying it’s the worst conditions he’s ever played in at any level of football.

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