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NRG Stadium to feature artificial turf in 2016; future playing surface unclear

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Next season the Houston Texans will be playing on artificial turf they debuted in 2015, but the future of the playing surface at NRG Stadium is still being determined, a source said.

That uncertain future will have no impact on Super Bowl LI, which will be played at NRG Stadium in February. The NFL can use its own surface for that game, and did the last time the Super Bowl was played in Houston.

It's a matter of great importance in Houston, though. Texans owner Bob McNair told the Houston Chronicle the team is pricing its options. The team is a tenant of SMG and Harris County, Texas, so it's unclear where the financial responsibility would lie.

"We have one that's also used by the high schools and colleges, and if we go to artificial turf, we'd have a turf just for the NFL that wouldn't be used for other events," McNair told the Chronicle. "We'll probably decide in the next 30 days or so, maybe 60."

There wasn't enough time before the 2016 season for a return to natural grass, because the square trays on which the natural grass is grown need refurbishment in order to provide a field of the proper quality.

If the Texans stick with the AstroTurf field, the ideal is to have a surface exclusive to Texans games. But spending the money to do that might make refurbishing the natural grass trays cost-prohibitive. It's one or the other, and that long-term decision hasn't been made yet.

The 2015 season opener wasn't a good one for the Texans' natural grass field, which featured visible seams and patches of dried grass. The Kansas City Chiefs weren't happy about the condition of the field and the Texans felt the field didn't meet their standards.

The Texans changed their surface during the following week.

Over the years players and coaches have expressed their frustration with the surface. Patriots coach Bill Belichick did so after then-Patriots receiver Wes Welker tore his anterior cruciate ligament on it. Eagles players complained about the field after then-Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans tore his Achilles tendon on the field. It was the second time Ryans had torn his Achilles tendon on the same field. After Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney suffered a lateral meniscus tear, then-Texans safety D.J. Swearinger told NFL Network that Clowney had stepped in "one of the holes" on the field. Clowney ultimately needed microfracture surgery for the injury.