An unknown driver appears to have damaged the field at FirstEnergy Stadium just days before the Cleveland Browns are set to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to a video taken by News 5 Cleveland.
The grounds crew found tire tread marks in the shape of circles spanning almost half of the western side of the field. FirstEnergy Stadium uses Kentucky Bluegrass rather than turf.
“We are aware of the incident that occurred early Tuesday morning at FirstEnergy Stadium and have provided the Cleveland Division of Police with all relevant information," the Browns said in a statement. "Based on our internal evaluation, there was some superficial damage to the playing field that our grounds maintenance team is currently working to repair. We take great pride in the strong reviews and reputation of our stadium’s playing surface, have been in touch with the NFL on the matter and are confident after repair our field will be ready for Sunday’s game vs. the Tampa Buccaneers.”
Field and turf maintenance experts who spoke with News 5 said the short timeline could pose problems for potential repairs because the grounds crew will likely fill in any deep ruts with thick clay-based topsoil. The soil will then need to be packed tightly to prevent sinking. The crew cannot use regular sod for repairs because that would require a minimum of two weeks to fully root.
"Sod has a rooting-in period where the roots have to adhere to the soil so it actually sticks to the ground," Anthony Pagano of Sterner's Sod said. "If you don’t give that the proper amount of time, you can go ahead and take that piece right up off the ground. It’s not going to adhere. It’s going to be a safety issue for the players."
Artificial turf has already come under fire this season after multiple instances of injuries at specific venues. MetLife Stadium already announced it will change its turf in 2023 but won't replace it with natural grass.