Field may have contributed to Jay Cutler’s injury, but Miami Dolphins confident issues are solved

Divots are visible as Oakland Raiders tight end Jared Cook (87) makes a catch against Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — In his takedown of the Dolphins for the condition of their playing field, analyst Phil Simms said the team was lucky no one got hurt in last week’s Raiders game.

Turns out that if Simms had gone back just one more home game, he could have pointed to a player who did get hurt: quarterback Jay Cutler, because the player blocking for Cutler said he slipped on the field, allowing the hit in question.

The Dolphins haven’t been proud of either the field conditions or that it has received national attention but are confident that recent changes will have the field vastly improved, hopefully as soon as Saturday night’s University of Miami-Notre Dame game.

Cutler cracked two ribs in the Oct. 22 game when hit by Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins. Tight end MarQueis Gray was blocking Jenkins on the play but slipped. Although Gray caught himself before falling, the slip was enough to allow Jenkins to get by, Gray said Thursday.

“It’s one of those things that you can’t control,” Gray said. “It hurt me to see that happen and I was pissed during that play. And a couple of days after, I still thought about it. It was like, damn, I wore the right cleats and I did my job but at the end of the day, there’s nothing you can do about it but just try not to let it happen.”


‘I was pissed during that play. And a couple of days after, I still thought about it. It was like, damn, I wore the right cleats and I did my job but at the end of the day, there’s nothing you can do about it but just try not to let it happen.’ — MarQueis Gray, on the play in which Jay Cutler cracked two ribs


Of course, there’s no telling whether Cutler would have been injured even on a perfect field. He missed the following week’s game at Baltimore but returned for last Sunday’s 27-24 loss to Oakland, throwing for 311 yards and three touchdowns.

Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler (6) struggles to get up after taking a hit against the Jets at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on October 22, 2017. Cutler left the game after this play. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Simms’ rant put the spotlight back on a playing surface that has taken its share of shots, especially early this season when the Hurricanes and Dolphins played on back-to-back days. The Dolphins have tried re-sodding the field multiple times with limited success.

“The field this year has been a challenge and we’re addressing it,” said Tom Garfinkel, the Dolphins’ president and CEO. “We believe we’ve identified the issue. We installed a new field — from a different vendor — this week and I have a lot more confidence that we will not have field issues for the UM game this weekend or for next weekend’s games.”

Coach Adam Gase said Thursday that he traditionally walks the field before each game, checking on conditions so he can recommend which cleats players wear to avoid slipping and even injuries. That happened before the Raiders game, but Gase’s plans still were sabotaged by a sudden downpour just before kickoff.

“We felt really good before it started raining,” Gase said. “I think we were a little surprised when we come out for the introductions … and all of a sudden you walk out and it’s a monsoon.”

There have been times in past years when the Dolphins’ home field has been considered among the best in the league, even dating back to their time in the Orange Bowl. But the grass previously installed this season wasn’t sturdy enough to stand up to inclement weather and the pounding from football players.

Seeing players slipping and divots in the ground frustrated fans. Some blamed the canopy or the Hurricanes playing on Saturdays before the Dolphins take the field on Sundays. But both factors were in play last season, when the field largely held up fine, which is why the Dolphins are confident the problem can be solved.

The only remaining back-to-back dates for UM and the Dolphins at Hard Rock are Nov. 18-19.

Gase smirked when asked if he’ll turn some attention to the surface this offseason.

“I’m going to let people do their job,” he said. “My job is to show up and coach.”

Gray said players have tried various types of cleats to improve footing, including a longer cleat called “seven studs,” but added that players have slipped whether they’re wearing the wrong cleats or the wrong ones.

“The crew people did whatever they could to make sure it was safe for us to play,” Gray said of the Raiders game. “And then throughout the game, everyone’s running and cutting on the field, and it’s going to make it worse. It’s really no one’s fault. It’s just how it is.”

It won’t be an issue for the Dolphins this weekend because they’re at Carolina.

Saturday, the Hard Rock field again will be on national TV for UM-Notre Dame. The Irish planned to have some of their players wear screw-in cleats in practice this week in case they have to change out of their usual molded shoes, which have an entirely different feel. Wearing screw-ins when you’re not used to them also could lead to blisters.

“There’s really not much you can do,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Everybody’s playing in the same kind of conditions. We’ve seen it on film but they are not unplayable conditions to that point and it’s not something that we’re going to get distracted by.”


‘Those guys are working hard to make sure that we get this thing squared away.’ — Adam Gase, on the grounds crew


As for the Dolphins, Gase said he’s leaving it in Garfinkel’s hands.

“I think Tom’s done a great job of researching and finding the right solution to kind of get us pointed in the right direction,” Gase said. “Those guys are working hard to make sure that we get this thing squared away.

“It’s a couple of things that occurred that it just didn’t work out the right way that we wanted to. Hopefully we will have this thing fixed by the next time we play at home. We feel good about the direction we’re headed.”

Simms had blasted the conditions on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL.”

“It really did bother me,” Simms said. “In this day and age that you can’t have a great surface for all these guys? I thought that they were lucky somebody didn’t get hurt.”

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