Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Bengals face fine over field conditions

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jacksonville's Fred Taylor slips on the sloppy turf Sunday.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        The Bengals could face an unprecedented fine from the NFL because they didn't put a tarp on the Paul Brown Stadium field before Sunday's game, a league official said Tuesday.

        The NFL's “Game Day Operations Manual” states natural-grass fields must be covered “if precipitation is expected the week before each game.”

        The club didn't cover the field because yard markers and boundary lines were repainted Thursday and hadn't dried by the time rain started falling heavily Saturday. The lines would have been washed away if the tarp had been rolled out, Bengals business manager Bill Connelly said.

        The temperature fell sharply overnight Saturday, and snow fell early Sunday.

        Dan Masonson, AFC information manager for the NFL, said there is no standard dollar amount for such a fine and he was unaware of another team being punished for failing to follow the tarp guideline.

        The Bengals will not have to forfeit their 17-14 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Bengals' final home game, Masonson said.

        “There is not a set timetable” for the investigation, Masonson said.

        Bengals officials don't expect anything to come of the inquiries by the league and the Jaguars organization.

        “But if we have our day in court, we can defend the actions of the club and the grounds crew,” Bengals business manager Bill Connelly said Tuesday.

        Connelly also said either he or the grounds crew was in contact with NFL officials every day last week and that the game referee, Jeff Triplette, agreed the field would be in better shape if it were not covered with a tarp the night before the game.

        The thinking by Bengals officials was that wet sand provided much better footing than dry sand.

        Connelly and Triplette looked at the field at 1p.m. Saturday, when it was raining, and Connelly said putting down the tarp would have caused ice to form on the field and tarp.

        “I had tarps 50 feet away, so if he would have told me to put them down, we would have,” Connelly said.

        The field was examined by Bengals and league officials again at 10a.m. Sunday, three hours before kickoff, and it was decided to keep the tarp off.

        “The field was not going to be any worse off with the tarp on or off. We did the best we could with the conditions we had,” Connelly said. “They were inclement and extreme conditions.”

        The center of the field had been turned into a sand-dirt mix after the Bengals-Arizona game Dec.3. Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin, who had viewed film of that game, complained about the field this past Wednesday during a conference call interview.

        At halftime, the grounds crew hooked a heavy metal drum to a tractor and rolled the middle of the field in an effort to compress the soil.

        After the loss to the Bengals, several Jacksonville players called the field a “cow pasture” and said it was the worst they had played on, including when they were children in Pop Warner league. Tackle Tony Boselli urged the NFL to “shut that thing down.”

        The Bengals were forced to install the temporary Bermuda grass field — which does not tolerate cold weather — because the bluegrass sod that was to be put in was damaged by a drought while being grown in Maryland.

        A permanent bluegrass field, similar to adjacent practice fields, will be put down during the offseason.

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