Bengals to swap playing surface from slit-film turf to FieldTurf

The playing surface at Cincinnati's Paycor Stadium will be replaced this offseason, the Bengals announced Thursday, completing the elimination of slit-film turf from NFL facilities.

Data compiled jointly by the NFL and the NFL Players Association has shown a higher rate of noncontact lower-extremity injuries on slit-film turf than on other synthetic surfaces. Teams began eliminating it two years ago, and in 2023, there were three such fields left: Minnesota's U.S. Bank Stadium, Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium and the Bengals' Paycor Stadium.

The Vikings and Colts previously announced plans to replace their fields before the start of the 2024 season.

The Bengals and Hamilton County will install a FieldTurf Core system in its place. That surface is also used in stadiums in Atlanta, Carolina, Detroit, New England, New York and Seattle.

Hamilton County commissioners approved the plan Thursday as part of a series of stadium improvements.

"Hamilton County and the Bengals are committed to providing a top-level playing surface for NFL games, and this step confirms that commitment," Paycor Stadium managing director Steve Johnson said in a statement.

In a news release, neither Johnson nor the Bengals addressed why FieldTurf was selected over a natural surface, an issue that has become a hot topic between the NFL and the NFLPA.

Lloyd Howell, the NFLPA's executive director, called on all teams to convert to grass fields this past fall after New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon on MetLife Stadium's synthetic turf. But the rate of noncontact lower-extremity injuries was nearly the same on synthetic and natural turf in 2023, the second time in three years those trend lines have essentially intersected.

Jeff Miller, the NFL's executive vice president for communications, public affairs and policy, said earlier this month that the similar rates point to a "need to look at all surfaces" for ways to improve. In a statement, the union said the numbers were close in 2023 only because injuries on grass fields increased.

"As we have said repeatedly," the NFLPA statement read, "injury data in a one-year time capsule does not account for what we have known since we started tracking these injuries: that a well-maintained, consistent grass surface is still simply safer for players than any synthetic field. The story of last year's injury data is that, unfortunately, injury rates on grass have increased from last year.

"The data cannot, however, account for what players have shared with the NFL for years: that we feel much worse after playing on synthetic surfaces and overwhelmingly prefer consistent, high-quality grass fields. This year's injury data also does not explain how quick they are to flip NFL stadium surfaces from bad synthetic to better grass for international soccer friendlies and tournaments."