ATHENS — The field conditions at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium are coming under increased scrutiny. Georgia, unfortunately, has had its own bad experiences on that field: Nick Chubb tore his knee there this year, and two years ago three different Bulldogs suffered knee injuries, two of them ACL tears.
Justin Scott-Wesley was one of them, tearing his knee while covering a punt, without contact with another player. It led to a series of problems with the knee over the next two years, and he ultimately gave up football this season.
Asked about the Tennessee turf on Wednesday, Scott-Wesley started by pointing out that each knee injury is different: Teammate Keith Marshall was hurt on a contact play in that 2013 game, and Chubb was also hit before his knee injury this year. But as for his own injury, Scott-Wesley does wonder if the turf had something to do with it.
“The turf is definitely something that has to be looked into, just because not even from an injury standpoint, just a playing surface standpoint, it’s bad,” Scott-Wesley said Wednesday. “It’s bad. Going into the Tennessee game in pregame warm-ups it was almost torn up, torn to pieces before the game even started. It’s definitely something that needs to be looked into. I mean you could see it from the TV copy, when you’re watching the game you could see.”
Jimmy Hyams, a longtime Knoxville media member, reported Wednesday that Tennessee was “finally” ready to fix the field. Tennessee’s athletics department provided a statement to Hyams that said:
“We all understand there is an issue with the field right now as we conclude the season and you aren’t going to see a big change in the finale against Vanderbilt. We have invested nearly $400,000 over the past year in the sod and care of the turf at Neyland Stadium. We will continue to invest (in) it so we can have a natural grass playing surface.
“As we have done in the past, we will continue to research with turf experts across the country to see what we can do to have a better playing surface in late October and November.’’
That came after North Texas, which played at Tennessee last Saturday, poked fun at the field conditions in a tweet:
— MeanGreenFootball (@MeanGreenFB) November 14, 2015
It should be pointed out that Georgia players have suffered serious knee injuries in other places: Aaron Murray (2013) and Todd Gurley (2014) tore their ACLs at Sanford Stadium. Malcolm Mitchell (2013) tore his at Clemson. And T.J. Tripling (2010) suffered a bad ACL injury while covering a kickoff at Colorado, and was basically never the same again.
Still, Georgia’s run of injuries at Tennessee – receiver Michael Bennett also tore his meniscus there two years ago – will certainly make it curious to see if there is further evidence of the turf there being a problem.