Sources from each team have told Yahoo Sports that there has been serious hand-wringing over the state of the field since a Shakira concert at the venue on Oct. 11, which left the grass surface in significant disrepair. The damage was so bad that photos of the ragged surface circulated among franchise executives raising questions about whether the field would be ready for the Monday night game.
The sources also told Yahoo Sports that a “break-the-glass” option of relocating the game back to Los Angeles is available, although the league insists that Estadio Azteca authorities are making progress with on-field preparations. As part of the event agreement, representatives from each team and the NFL were on the ground Monday in Mexico City for inspections of the field. That group is expected to continue those inspections on Tuesday.
As part of the league’s international series, it’s mandatory for the “home” team in the matchup to keep the date open at their stadium in the event a game gets derailed. Per that agreement, the Rams kept Nov. 19 available at the L.A. Coliseum in case of emergency. But with this week’s inspections in mind, the league did not appear to be entertaining the relocation alternative.
“We are working closely with the field manager at Azteca Stadium and others to ensure that we have an NFL quality surface for our game, and we are looking forward to kicking off in Mexico City on Monday night,” NFL spokesperson Michael Signora said in a statement Monday.
The field at Mexico City’s iconic stadium has been in a state of fluctuation for months, following a change from natural to hybrid grass last spring. But the heavy use of the turf since the installation has hindered its growth in recent months, leaving the surface susceptible to damage from heavily trafficked events. But none was apparently more damaging than the Shakira concert, which left the surface in a state that hasn’t recovered fully over the past month. Despite the problems generated by the Shakira concert – and knowing the NFL game was crawling closer – Estadio Azteca continued to host events over the past month, furthering stress on the field.
The consternation created for the Rams and Chiefs is obvious: Sources from both teams indicated concern about player safety on a soft, barren or uneven surface. Essentially, neither appears thrilled about putting the health of their rosters in the hands of the Estadio Azteca authorities. Particularly the Rams, who just lost key wideout Cooper Kupp for the season with a torn ACL. The Chiefs also just got edge rusher Justin Houston back from a hamstring injury.
Both teams are 9-1 and feature two of the NFL’s most prolific offenses.
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