The Chicago Bears played a game Sunday night at Soldier Field in what coach Lovie Smith called "Chicago Bears weather." They lost, managing only six points against a southern dome team, and at least one Bears player is pretty ticked off about it.
Place-kicker Robbie Gould slammed the stadium grounds crew Monday during an appearance on ESPN 1000, as my ESPNChicago.com colleague Jeff Dickerson notes. Criticizing the Soldier Field grass is an annual tradition among Bears players, but it reinforces that nothing much has changed after chairman George McCaskey promised the team would get more involved in field management after conditions forced the 2011 Family Night practice to be canceled.
The Chicago Park District owns the stadium and is in charge of all maintenance, including the field.
Gould, who missed a 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that would have made it a one-score game, said he wants to know "who decided to keep the field so soft that it's been tore up the entire year." Gould asked why the field wasn't covered to protect against heavy rain in the hours leading up to Sunday night's game, and said the field has been uneven and treacherous all season.
"I don't know what's happening," Gould said. "This year our field has been real bad. It's been tore up. There have actually been some places on the field where some portions of it have actually sunk to a new low level, and the other spots are high."
Here's how Gould described the conditions for his game-winning field goal over the Carolina Panthers in Week 8:
"On the left hash, three quarters of the hash is really high and then it's like a cliff. It just falls off for like four or five inches. So when we made the kick, if you go and watch that kick on film we are outside the portion of the hash which makes it a lot tougher [in regards] to the timing and the rhythm of the snap for Pat Mannelly. He is the best long-snapper in the NFL, so for him he makes it look it easy.
"But it's been really interesting to watch this year how bad our field has really been. I know we have talked about this every single year. ... Can we please get somebody in there that watches a news report?"
It's only fair to note that Gould has missed three field goals this season at Soldier Field. And I've always been dubious about complaints, legitimate or otherwise, on field conditions there. The Bears' management understands the situation and has the authority to mandate changes, including a switch to artificial turf.
I've always assumed that nothing has changed because the Bears' decision-makers like it the way it is. It's safe to say they consider the current state of affairs to be a home-field advantage. In most cases it is. In fact, the Bears probably like public discussion of the field conditions, if for no other reason than to play mind games with future opponents.
Sunday night, however, that philosophy might have backfired. Gould's comments remind us that sometimes you can get snared in your own fishnet. Or something like that.