Turf boss: Grounds crew caused Bills field issue

The Buffalo Bills game played December 11 was delayed after the operator of a snow removal tractor failed to properly set the equipment, according to the turf company’s president and founder.

Jim Dobmeier of A-Turf Inc. in Williamsville, NY said the bristles of the tractors used to move snow around had been set too low and forced the small cushy rubber granules and sand embedded in the field to collect on the sidelines and in the end zone.

“They should have been set at a level by Bills’ personnel where the brushes are just touching the fiber tips, thus removing snow but not disturbing the rubber infill,” Dobmeier said in an email to the Democrat and Chronicle and The Buffalo News.

The game was delayed by about seven minutes as crews used shovels and leaf blowers to move the rubber materials away from the playing area.

“While it was a bit unsightly … what was brought on to the surface was a very small percentage,” added Dobmeier, who said he attended the game. “Very notably, the footing on the surface given the playing conditions was phenomenal. I saw one slip in the game and it was clearly caused by snow on the fibers.”

A-Turf uses rubber granules and sand to support the synthetic grass fibers — together they provide shock absorption and a bit of a bounce to those running on it.

The Buffalo Bills said in a statement that a brush used by one of the tractors on the field was too firm, causing the build-up of the rubber material on the field.

“Our field crew worked in conjunction with NFL officials to clear the sidelines to their specifications, which caused a brief delay in the start of the second half.”

In the past, NFL games have been delayed, moved and even postponed for more dire weather-related issues. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints have encountered issues relating to hurricanes.

The Buffalo Bills saw a game moved to Detroit two years ago after a massive snowstorm dumped more than five feet of snow on parts of Erie County.

Earlier this year, the Hall of Fame game between the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers was stopped due to poor field conditions.

By rule, a game referee must consult with league officials before deciding to cancel, postpone or terminate a game.

“The referee may order the resumption of play when he deems conditions safe for all concerned and, if circumstances warrant, after consultation with appropriate representatives of the Commissioner’s office,” according to an online section of the NFL rule book on emergencies.

On Sunday, Buffalo was already down 14-7 when the delay occurred at the beginning of the second half and went on to lose 27-20.

Dobmeier added that it’s the first time he’s seen such an issue on any of A-Turf’s 400 fields.

“All in all, it’s much to do about not much,” he added.- Todd Clausen, USA Today