In his video debut on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Answer Man fielded a question regarding the most popular playing surfaces in the NFL. The Answer Man referenced NFLPA surveys from 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, all of which ranked the field at Raymond James Stadium as either the best or second-best grass surface in the league.
That NFLPA survey is conducted every two years, and later on Thursday the most recent results were revealed.
Fortunately for Buccaneers players – and visiting teams – nothing much has changed in the past two years.
Over a period of several months during the 2010 season, the NFLPA polled 1,619 of its members, asking them to choose the best and worst grass and artificial playing fields in the league. The results were very similar to what the Association's 2008 survey produced; in fact, the top four teams on the list were unchanged from two years ago.
NFL's Best Grass Playing Fields
- Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, AZ 1. Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, AZ
- Raymond James Stadium, TB 2. Raymond James Stadium, TB
- Qualcomm Stadium, SD 3. Qualcomm Stadium, SD
- Bank of America Stadium, CAR 4. Bank of America Stadium, CAR
- Jacksonville Munic. Stadium, JAX 5. Lambeau Field, GB
The Arizona Cardinals' new stadium opened in 2006 and immediately landed in the third spot in the grass surface rankings in that year's NFLPA survey. In 2008, University of Phoenix knocked the Bucs' home field out of the top spot for the first time ever.
The NFLPA began surveying players and ranking the league's fields in 1994. In the first survey, Tampa Stadium (which would later be renamed Houlihan's Stadium) was tabbed as having the NFL's best grass surface. Houlihan's repeated at the top of the list in 1996.
In 1998, Raymond James Stadium opened just to the south of the location of its predecessor and nailed every detail, including the playing surface. The Bucs got a spectacular new home but the good feelings about its grass field by players around the league was nothing new. In the 1998 NFLPA survey, Raymond James Stadium debuted at the top.
The Bucs' home field again repeated as the best grass surface in the NFL in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. The Cardinals' new stadium has since overtaken Raymond James Stadium in the survey, but it's obvious that the Bucs' home surface is still thought of very highly.
Grass and artificial fields are ranked separately in the survey. The five highest-ranked artificial surfaces in the NFL in 2010 could be found at Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis), New Meadowlands Stadium (N.Y. Giants and Jets), Louisiana Superdome (New Orleans), Qwest Field (Seattle) and Cowboys Stadium (Dallas). Cowboys Stadium is the host for Super Bowl XLV on Sunday, and next three championship games after that will be played at Lucas Oil, the Superdome and the Meadowlands.
The lengthy NFLPA survey asks players to answer such questions as "How would you rate your home field?" and "What type of field do you prefer to play on?" They are also asked to identify the three best and the three worst grass and artificial surfaces they've played on in the NFL. Among the teams whose players cast a large number of votes for the field at Raymond James Stadium were Cleveland, New Orleans and Pittsburgh.
The "best" vote created one survey that ranked the 18 grass surfaces in the NFL from 1-18. The "worst" vote created a separate set of rankings that started with what was identified as the least favorite field. As such, while the Oakland Raiders home field received the fewest votes for "best" grass field and was thus ranked 18th on that list, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers home surface that received the most votes for "worst" grass field and was thus ranked at the top of that list. The Raiders' field was second on the worst grass list, followed by the playing surfaces in Chicago, Miami and Cleveland.
The fields in Pittsburgh, Oakland and Chicago dominated the voting on the worst grass list. The Bucs' home field was one of five that was almost forgotten (thankfully) in that vote, each receiving 55 or fewer nods. Those five were Raymond James Stadium, Qualcomm Stadium, University of Phoenix Stadium, FedExField (Washington) and Invesco Field (Denver).