MILWAUKEE -- The general manager of Soldier Field, the site of the NFC Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, said Monday that the Chicago Park District and the Bears have no plans to replace the sod in advance of Sunday's game.
"We talked with the Bears and we think there's good, firm footing," said Tim LeFevour, the stadium's general manager. "We will keep the sod."
Players for both teams agree that the natural grass surface at Soldier Field is among the worst, if not the worst, in the league. On Sunday, the Bears defeated the Seattle Seahawks in a divisional playoff game. Despite snow showers that made the surface slick and slippery, LeFevour said the turf held up.
In Chicago, the Chicago Park District, which owns the stadium, is responsible for managing and maintaining the field. The district contracts with a third-party company to handle maintenance.
A league source said NFL officials would review field conditions throughout the week and work with the field manager to get a sense of field conditions leading up to Sunday. If league officials determine steps need to be taken to replace all or some of the sod, the league will have final say, the source said.
There is some precedent for that. On Jan. 4, 1997, the Packers defeated the San Francisco 49ers in a divisional playoff game. Rain fell throughout the game.
The turf, which lasted exactly two games, had to be replaced in time for the NFC Championship Game the next Sunday against the Carolina Panthers--all 57,600 square feet of the surface.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said recently that the Soldier Field turf is among the worst in the NFL. Wide receiver Greg Jennings of the Packers agreed.
"It's probably one of the worst--probably the worst in the league," Jennings said.
"But at the same time, you have to go out before the game, pregame, and kind of get a feel of what you're working with, what you're dealing with, get your footing, because that's going to play a huge, huge role in the game."
Jennings said he watched the Bears-Seahawks game on television.
"I know it affected those guys on a couple of routes that I saw--couple guys slid," he said. "But that's going to happen regardless of what field you're on, if you're in that type of climate. You have to be mindful of your footing and your body lean and things like that."
Bears great Mike Ditka said the Bears and the park district "need to go synthetic with the new grasses."
"Why they don't, I don't know," Ditka said Monday.
Like Lambeau Field, there are heating coils underneath the playing surface at Soldier Field. LeFevour said there were 40 miles of heat tubing buried about 8 inches below the surface. Those coils keep the field at a temperature between 53 and 58 degrees.
Chicago officials have talked in recent years about converting the playing field to a natural grass surface reinforced with synthetic fibers and rooted partially in sand. That's what the Packers did at Lambeau after the 2006 season.
But right now, it looks as if the field won't be changed at all. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, with highs in the low 20s.