Raiders, Pack play on 80-yard field due to issues

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Due to holes in the end zones of IG Field, where goalposts for the Canadian Football League's bigger field are usually planted, the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers played on a shorter field Thursday night.

Long conversations among NFL, Packers and Raiders officials ended with the decision that the players should not be in such unsafe conditions, so the playing field was reduced to 80 yards, with each 10-yard line serving as the goal line.

Up until about 20 minutes before kickoff, field workers were trying to tamp down a square of artificial turf in each end zone, to no avail. It would not stay put.

A statement from the NFL was released shortly after kickoff:

"Tonight's game is being played on a reconfigured field. The field met the mandatory practices for the maintenance of surfaces for NFL games based on an inspection yesterday. Concerns arose today surrounding the area where the Blue Bombers' goalposts were previously located. The 10-yard line will function as the goal line at this game. In lieu of kickoffs, the ball will be placed at the 15-yard line."

Caesars Sportsbook and most other sportsbooks graded the game as usual because field size is not in any rules as far as canceling bets. At Caesars, the game closed as a pick 'em, with an over/under of 40.

The Raiders were technically the home team for the preseason contest, which raised the question of why the team would give up a game in Oakland, California, to travel to a foreign country. Per a league source, the Raiders did not yet have a lease with the Oakland Coliseum when the NFL scheduled its preseason and gave the Raiders a Week 3 home game, be it in San Francisco; Santa Clara, California; Reno, Nevada; Las Vegas; or Oakland.

But with MLB's Oakland Athletics home this week, the Raiders had to hit the road to play host, hence the team having talks with Canadian cities Regina, Saskatchewan, and Edmonton, Alberta, and even with Honolulu, before signing up with Winnipeg for the first NFL game of any kind played in Western Canada.

And while the Packers, who had planned on playing some front-line players, made a statement by sitting 33 players, it was hard to tell whether the Raiders reacted similarly since they did not plan on playing many, if any, starters against Green Bay. The Raiders left 24 players in Oakland, including No. 4 overall draft pick Clelin Ferrell.

"I'm not going to make a big deal about the field. We liked the field," Raiders coach Jon Gruden said after his team's 22-21 victory. "We thought the field was perfectly ready to roll. You'll have to ask GB about that. Didn't affect our playcalling or our evaluations. We just adapted as they did to the new dimensions of the field."

Raiders fullback Keith Smith said he forgot the 10-yard line was the new goal line when he scored his 15-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter.

"If you watch the play, I didn't stop when I scored," Smith said. "I thought I had 8 more yards to go.

"It had a backyard-footballish feel to it."

Oakland's Daniel Carlson, who kicked a winning 33-yard field goal, said the Raiders were not told the field would be adjusted and that there would be no kickoffs until right before the game started.

"It took a little while to figure out what that meant," he said. "It was a little strange. The red zone was now the 30-yard line."

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was questionable to play because of a sore back, was one of the 33 players the Packers sat.

Coach Matt LaFleur said after the game that he had planned to play Green Bay's starters but changed his mind, although he didn't specifically say it was because of the field or its condition.

"We were going to have all of our starters play," LaFleur said. "We certainly have all played on much worse surfaces in our life, but it was just one of those deals where they weren't playing their starters, and so we just decided to sit them."

When asked again whether the field was the reason he held out Rodgers and most of the starters, LaFleur said: "Well, it was a combination of a lot of things that I really don't want to get into right now. So, it is what it is. They weren't playing their guys, and I didn't want to put our guys at risk."

Rodgers, who didn't play in the preseason opener and was a late scratch in the second game because of back tightness, said sitting against the Raiders had "nothing to do with the back, it's more the field conditions that we had tonight."

LaFleur said he hasn't given any thought yet to playing Rodgers and the starters in next week's preseason finale, although Rodgers indicated that was unlikely.

"We just need a good week of practice coming up; we'll probably be looking ahead next week in practice and get some good opportunity to get some good work in and then just ready for a normal week after that," Rodgers said on the broadcast. "We'll be ready for sure."

There was at least one other game in NFL history played on a field shorter than 100 yards. In 1932, the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans played the league's first playoff game indoors at Chicago Stadium, on a modified 80-yard field, due to poor weather.

ESPN's Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.