According to the NFLPA, the Indianapolis Colts have the worst kind of turf, called ‘Slit Film’, in Lucas Oil Stadium as their playing surface—which only two other NFL teams still use (*as three teams reportedly ‘ditched it’ this offseason as new data became available).
Per the IndyStar’s Chloe Peterson, it’s potentially contributed to the Colts being more susceptible to injuries over the past few seasons compared to their NFL counterparts:
“It’s been a long-standing issue for the Colts. Man Games Lost NFL found the Colts to be the second-most injured team between 2009-22, just behind the Giants. Indianapolis has had just over 3,000 games lost because of player injuries in that span, roughly 500 more than the average NFL team, according to the site’s data. That means the Colts are missing the equivalent of more than two full seasons — 36 games — of two players per season over the average team.”
The NFLPA has not been shy about letting their feelings and frustrations known with collected data to support their opinion that grass is a significantly safer surface than turf.
NFLPA president J.C. Tretter has also previously called for the immediate replacement and ban of all slit-turf.
That being said, while the Colts realistically won’t be playing on natural grass anytime soon, there are confirmed city plans to upgrade the quality of their current playing surface ahead of next season (via Peterson):
“Indianapolis’ Capital Improvement Board announced in August that it would change the turf starting in the 2024-25 season,” Peterson writes. “The current turf will be ripped out of Lucas Oil Stadium in March to make way for an Olympic-sized pool for the 2024 U.S Olympic Swimming Trials, and it will be replaced with a monofilament-style turf.”
“. . . Multiple teams use the Hellas Matrix Turf that will be installed in Lucas Oil Stadium, including the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, and Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.”
Perhaps during the NFL’s next wave of built stadiums, natural grass will be a requirement.
However, infrastructure-wise for Lucas Oil Stadium, it doesn’t appear all that plausible for the city to jackhammer tons of concrete and somehow create a sliding natural grass tray—similar to how the Arizona Cardinals currently deploy at State Farm Stadium (*not to mention, there’s quite a difference in weather and climate between Indiana and Arizona year-round).
That being said, Peterson did indicate that ‘grass growing lights’ could be a potential solution for existing ‘dome’ teams like the Colts—referring to a recent news piece regarding a study conducted regarding the Minnesota Vikings:
“A report from Fox 9 in Minneapolis said it would cost U.S. Bank Stadium — an enclosed, domed field similar to Lucas Oil Stadium — $4 million to $5 million per year to maintain a natural grass field. Domed stadiums, especially those in the northern part of the U.S. with waning sunlight in winter, would need to not only install grow lights to help maintain the grass, but possibly switch out the natural grass field entirely every few weeks,” Peterson added.
Even then, the city of Indianapolis prides itself on hosting a number of non-football related events at Lucas Oil Stadium from swimming championships to concerts to basketball games to monster truck rallies, which could thwart any innovative lighting attempts to grow natural grass.
The perceived increased safety issues and the NFL players’ hard feelings regarding competing on artificial turf likely aren’t going away any time soon, so this should remain a trending topic league-wide for the foreseeable future.
It’s encouraging that the city (*and Colts) are at least upgrading the quality of the Lucas Oil artificial turf next season for proposed improved player safety reasons—although it’s still not the switch to natural grass that some parties are clearly advocating for.