- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2001

PHILADELPHIA Veterans Stadium needs Three Rivers Stadium treatment.
In one word: Kaboom.
The Baltimore Ravens' first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles was postponed because of problems with Veterans Stadium's artificial turf. At approximately 5:48 p.m., both teams unanimously agreed that playing a football game in deplorable conditions would risk injury to all the players. The start time, originally schedule for 7:30 p.m., was pushed back 35 minutes, but at 8:09 p.m., the stadium announcer said the game was "temporarily suspended."
When some Eagles fans found out that they were not going to be reimbursed on the spot, some smashed windows at the will-call booths. Six fans were arrested, police said.
About 15 minutes later, the game was officially postponed by Peter Hadhazy, the NFL's director of game operations. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will make a ruling today whether the game will be rescheduled or canceled.
The last NFL game that was canceled without starting was Aug. 19, 1995, at the Astrodome. The San Diego Chargers were unable to play the Houston Oilers because the turf was determined to be unsafe.
"As we've been saying for a long time, the conditions in which this professional football team has been forced to play on is absolutely unacceptable and is an embarrassment to the city of Philadelphia," Eagles president Joe Banner said.
Last night the groundskeepers failed to convert Veterans Stadium from a baseball field to a gridiron. The Philadelphia Phillies played the Los Angeles Dodgers in an afternoon game Sunday, and the grounds people worked all night to turn the field over but could not get it ready.
The square cutouts of artificial turf used to cover first base, second base and the pitcher's mound did not meet flush with the rest of the field. The covered infield areas protruded at least two inches above the rest of the playing surface. In addition, when people stepped into one of those areas, their feet would sink below field level.
The seams linking the cutout areas to the field also were not sewn tightly together. When people stepped on a seam, their feet would slide a little bit.
"From my standpoint, I am embarrassed for putting Brian [Billick] and the Ravens through the travel here," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "This is a very emotional game. My players were looking forward to playing in this game. Even though it's a preseason game, we take this thing very serious. I'm disappointed that the people that prepared the surface did not take it into their hands and prepare themselves as diligently."
A new 66,000-seat football-only stadium, already under construction, won't be ready until 2003.
Ironically, a $3 million synthetic turf called NeXturf was installed in March because of the bad reputation of the previous field. Now this fiasco with the new surface.
Veterans Stadium opened in 1971 as a multipurpose sports complex.
"We've been going through this for a number of years," Banner said. "It's not acceptable. We have been accused a number of times making big deals out of little things to help get a stadium. We've rejected that notion as outrageous. We have no need to do that; there's no basis for that type of accusation to go on."
Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent, as representatives for the two teams, agreed the game should not be played. Siragusa denied that he called the NFLPA before the game to see whether the players union has insurance to cover this game because of the field.
"We didn't try to call the union at all," Siragusa said. "Troy [Vincent] and I are the union here. I just thought we should talk about the situation we have here and the condition of the field. It just wasn't in the best interest of the players. We got the support of everyone else."
The postponement could be a break for the Ravens. Had they played the game, the Ravens would have had three preseason games in 11 days. Now the Ravens play just two games in five days: Saturday at the New York Jets and Thursday at home against the Carolina Panthers.
"It looked better than what it was," Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware said. "When I went on the field, especially in cleats, there was no planting. If you tried to make a hard plant or you tried to make a hard cut, you were going to definitely slip."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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