Everything you think you know about the Dolphins’ chewed up playing surface is wrong.
No, it has not been in bad shape because the University of Miami played on it the day before.
And, no, it is not because the shade canopy makes grass hard to grow.
Rather, it is because of defective sod provided to Hard Rock Stadium by a company that the team has since fired.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“The field this year has been a challenge and we’re addressing it,” Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel said. “We believe we’ve identified the issue. We installed a new field — from a different vendor — this week and I have a lot more confidence that we will not have issues for the UM game this weekend or for next weekend’s games.”
Along with changing field providers, the Dolphins have also changed the strand of grass used from paspalum back to Bermuda.
These corrections have the team convinced that the problem, which has drawn criticism both locally and nationally, will be fixed going forward. There is no plan at this time to switch to field turf because it is simply too hot for use in South Florida and over player safety concerns.
Rather, the field will remain natural grass, even if that means the Dolphins need to change it out more often than in years past. Dolphins groundskeepers are saying privately that the field is now the best it has been in a long time, the Herald has learned.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase, asked about the turf in his Thursday news conference, echoed Garfinkel’s optimism, saying he expects the field issues to be gone by the Dolphins’ Nov. 19 home game against the Buccaneers.
“Those guys are working hard to make sure that we kind of get this thing squared away,” Gase said. “There are a couple of things that just kind of occurred that it just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. Hopefully, we’ll have this thing fixed by the next time we play at home. We feel good about the direction we’re heading and what we have lined up. I think Tom has really been on this thing. I know it bothers him because he wants everything perfect to give us the best chance to win.”
The Dolphins have also been victims of some bad luck. A heavy rainstorm opened up just minutes before kickoff last Sunday, making for a sloppy surface.
Both Dolphins and Raiders players slipped repeatedly — it appeared to trip up Michael Thomas on the Marshawn Lynch touchdown that was ultimately the difference in the game — prompting CBS analyst Phil Simms to rip the surface on Inside the NFL.
“Did you watch the Sunday night game down in Miami?” Simms said. “You know, those are professional football players on the field. Did you see the field and conditions? It really bothered me. There are guys — Ndamukong Suh — there are players out there that really could have been hurt because of the condition of that field.... It really did bother me. In this day and age that you can’t have a great surface for all these guys? I thought that they were lucky somebody didn’t get hurt.”
The NFL and the Dolphins disagree with this take. The field has passed every safety test, and as Simms suggests, there have been no field-based injuries diagnosed by team doctors.
Also, poor footing might have been better prevented if every player actually listened to their equipment manager. Dolphins players were urged to wear seven-stud cleats Sunday due to the rain; some chose not to.
As for the arguments that the canopy or overuse is to blame, a rejoinder: The Dolphins had no problems with the field in 2016, aside from the season finale.
But that was a result of hundreds, if not thousands, of people trampling on the turf during the Orange Bowl’s halftime show and post-game celebrations.