EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Earlier Thursday, we passed along the concerns expressed by Chicago Bears safety Chris Harris on the potential hazards of the still-frozen turf at TCF Bank Stadium. Expanded reaction on the issue, from both the Bears and Minnesota Vikings locker room, was mixed.
The University of Minnesota has outlined a vague plan to thaw the field and keep it from re-freezing before Monday night, but Bears cornerback Charles Tillman isn't convinced.
"If the field is frozen, who the hell wants to play on that?" Tillman told Chicago-area reporters. "I would much rather play in Minnesota, I'd much rather play in the Metrodome, but it was an unfortunate accident that happened, and I don't think anybody could have prepared for what exactly happened at that dome, [and now] everybody is scrambling to get that game in Minnesota.
"Icy field, players, safety ... This is the year when we are cracking down on player safety and concussions and stuff like that. You want to fine guys $75,000 [for illegal hits], but are we going to play on this frozen field? I don't know, it really doesn't make much sense to me."
The Bears sent their head groundskeeper to inspect the field, and coach Lovie Smith said he was satisfied with the situation as it was explained to him.
Bears placekicker Robbie Gould, the team's union representative, struck a more measured tone than Tillman, but said: "The biggest concern the players have is that we want to make sure we're playing on a surface that's not going to create more risk than there already is in the game." Quarterback Jay Cutler added that Bears players don't want to play on a "concrete-type surface."
Meanwhile, Vikings players seemed mostly upset about the unknown of the playing surface.
"It's certainly hard to stay in the Christmas spirit when you're getting the information that we're getting about it," placekicker Ryan Longwell said. "There's part of you that knows no matter what you've got to go play, so you mentally prepare for that. But there's the other side of you that wants to be given the best chance to succeed, and certainly there's a reason they put coils under New England and Lambeau and Soldier Field, and that's to keep the field so you can put a cleat in it."
Said punter Chris Kluwe: "I'd rather we play in an actual professional football facility. Not to take anything away from TCF. It's a great facility. But just playing at these kinds of temperatures with no heating coils underneath the ground seems to be asking for injury."
The possibility for injury is an especially sensitive issue for players, who have found themselves under fire from the NFL office this season for illegal hits.
"The whole season has been talked about, 'Player safety, player safety, player safety,'" linebacker Ben Leber said. "We're talking about going to 18 games. And then they're going to say, 'Hey, go play on some concrete and enjoy yourselves.' If that's the surface we have to play on, then we'll play it. But I think those things need to be addressed."
To reiterate, the University and the NFL have a plan for thawing the field. It just hasn't been tested nor explained in detail publicly, so no one knows if it will work. I think it's fair and appropriate for players to question that and express apprehension. If the field freezes Monday, then what happens? Stay tuned.