If there’s anyone on the Patriots who can empathize with what Aaron Rodgers is going through after suffering a season-ending injury at MetLife Stadium, it’s Jabrill Peppers.
He believes playing on a grass surface could have prevented the ACL tear he suffered in 2021. Peppers was in a contract year playing for the Giants at the time.
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“I tore my ACL on that same field. Mine wasn’t a non-contact injury though, but if it was grass my foot wouldn’t have gotten stuck and I wouldn’t have [done it],” Peppers said, shifting his weight and making a popping sound to demonstrate what happened to his knee.
“But it is what it is,” Peppers continued. “I take it on the chin and try to keep myself out of those situations. Keep my feet under me more so on turf. You don’t want to step outside of your frame, that’s how you get in trouble with turf too. You want to play fast but you also want to be safe to make it through the season.”
Boston.com asked five Patriots players whether they preferred playing on turf or grass. All five picked grass.
“I think it’s just a little lighter on the joints,” linebacker Josh Uche said. “Mainly the whole purpose of grass is that it gives more, so the pressure that you’re applying into the ground doesn’t immediately go up into your ankles and tendons and all that stuff.
“I think it’s always going to be a plus for the players,” Uche continued. “When you have something that will take some of the force away from the harsh contact with the ground.”
Following Rodgers’s injury, NFLPA executive director Lloyd Howell released a statement asking for every NFL team to switch to grass surfaces. Players have been asking for this change for years, Peppers said, but there hasn’t been enough traction to get it done.
“It’s crazy that it took A-Rod [Aaron Rodgers] for them to take notice, which sucks,” receiver Kendrick Bourne said. “But, we’ll see what happens.”
Rodgers’s injury drew attention to the issue, which is a priority for NFLPA player representatives, said Uche.
“Just the magnitude of it being a Monday night game and everybody being tuned in,” Uche said. “Some fans weren’t even aware of what was going on, but everybody was watching that game. Seeing that happen and the aftermath of people relating that to the turf-grass debate is bringing a lot of awareness, just with the popularity of Aaron Rodgers himself. It sheds a lot of light on it.”
Peppers said he’s taken notice of FIFA’s insistence on having grass surfaces for soccer games in the upcoming World Cup in 2026.
NFL players are generally bigger, stronger, more explosive athletes than pro soccer players, and the soccer organization still wants a surface that will lessen the risk of injury, Peppers said.
Peppers feels a deep passion for the issue but says that he’s given up hope that things will change anytime soon. There’s no point in getting upset about something that won’t change, he says.
“We’ve been trying to do that for 3-4 years now man … there’s no real incentive to change,” Peppers said. “There are players everywhere who are willing to play. You could tell them to play in the parking lot, I’m one of those guys too, and they would want to sit there and do that.
“Do I hope it changes? Yes. Do I think it will? No,” Peppers explained. “Do I care either way? No. Whatever is God’s plan, is God’s plan. I’m just going to go out there and play hard and fast on whatever surface we’re playing on and put it in God’s hands.”
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