Ravens Switching To Natural Grass At M&T Bank Stadium

The Ravens have played on artificial turf for the past 13 years. The players pushed to play on grass.

The Ravens are switching from artificial turf to natural grass at M&T Bank Stadium for the start of the 2016 season.

Team President Dick Cass announced the move Friday and the players and Head Coach John Harbaugh, who already knew the plans, are giving the move a big thumbs up.

“The players really wanted to play on grass and that was a key consideration. The coaches wanted to play on grass,” Cass said.

Baltimore had natural grass in the stadium when M&T Bank Stadium opened in 1998, but it didn’t work out well.

The field got chewed up during the season and they had trouble keeping it in good condition late in the season due to sunlight restrictions. Starting in early November, sunlight does not reach the Ravens sideline from about the numbers into the bench.

Thus, the Ravens changed to an artificial turf from Sportsexe Momentum Turf for the 2003 season, then replaced that with a newer Shaw Momentum 51 turf before the start of the 2010 season.

Cass said he has long felt that the Ravens’ artificial surfaces were the best in the league. The Ravens knew at the end of the season they were going to replace their current surface, and the original plan was to stick with it.

However, the Ravens did more research over the offseason on whether they could maintain a high quality grass field.

They found a different strain of grass, from a sod farm in North Carolina that are a mixture of Burmuda and some rye grass, that they believe will be more robust than what they previously used in the stadium. The Ravens also plan to use artificial light to keep grass growing where the field is shaded.

The team also plans to re-sod the entire field once during the season, and perhaps do parts of it a second time if needed. The team will have two backup fields growing in North Carolina and ready to go when needed.

“There have been a lot of technological advances with the grass from what I’m told,” Harbaugh said. “Our grounds people have done a great job of researching it, and they feel like they have the type of grass now that can thrive in there.”

Once it was a possibility, the two major factors going forward with natural grass is that it should be better for players’ health and that it’s befitting Baltimore and the rough-and-tumble AFC North.

Division rivals Pittsburgh and Cleveland both have grass, as well as the two closest NFL teams to Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia. Overall, 17 of the NFL’s 32 teams play their home games on grass, except for Green Bay’s hybrid field.

“To me, it’s Baltimore,” Harbaugh said. “It epitomizes what Baltimore is all about, the history of football in Baltimore. To me, a Baltimore football team should be playing on a grass field, ultimately. It’s a recognition of that.”

Harbaugh was asked if he was the one lobbying for grass.

“I might have,” he said with a smile. “I like the grass. I think it’s the AFC North, it’s the Baltimore Ravens – it just seems right.”

The Ravens talked to the players about the move in August to get their take and OK. While the decision did not come as a result of injuries suffered by quarterback Joe Flacco (ACL), wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles) and running back Justin Forsett (broken arm), the Ravens do expect it to help keep players healthier.

Cass said M&T Bank Stadium has stacked up very well against other artificial surfaces when it comes to injuries, but there is data that shows there are fewer lower-body injuries when playing on a high-quality natural field compared to artificial.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb suffered both of his ACL tears while changing directions at M&T Bank Stadium.

“It’s a black and white difference,” Webb said, adding that he can feel a difference in his knees when he practices outside on the Ravens’ grass field compared to inside on the artificial turf at the Under Armour Performance Center.

“Turf is harder on your body, harder on your joints, harder on your muscles,” veteran defensive end Chris Canty said. “It’s a higher rate of injury.”

In addition to helping with lower-body injuries, tight end Crockett Gillmore said he expects it will help prevent concussions. He estimated that players get more concussions from their head slamming into the hard ground than they do from the actual hit.

“Last week, I hit my head pretty hard on the grass in Cleveland,” Gillmore said. “I actually saw my facemask print in the grass. If I hit my head that hard on turf, it would have been lights out for a couple days.”

Installing and maintaining a high-quality grass field will be a “significantly greater expense” and come with more maintenance, Cass said.

Cass also said the Ravens are not anticipating eliminating any events they host at the stadium. While there will be concern about the field being torn up, measures will be taken to prevent damage and the Ravens aren’t willing to sacrifice those events.

“We’ll still have concerts, we’ll still have international soccer, we’ll have Army-Navy football next year, and we’ll try to attract other major college football games,” Cass said. “We will still host the two traditional Baltimore City [high school] games.”

Read the article at Baltimoreravens.com here.

Judge strikes down GMO ban in Oregon’s Josephine County

The prohibition against genetically engineered crops in Oregon’s Josephine County has been struck down by a judge who ruled the ordinance is pre-empted by state law.

Voters in the county approved the ban on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in 2014 even though state lawmakers disallowed local governments from regulating the crops the prior year.

Proponents of the GMO ban claimed that the state pre-emption was unconstitutional, but Josephine County Circuit Court Judge Pat Wolke has rejected that argument and held the county ordinance to be invalid.

“The state law says that the localities may not legislate in this area; and the voters of Josephine County have attempted to legislate in the exact same area. It is impossible to read the two enactments in harmony; so that the local ordinance must give way,” Wolke said in the May 16 ruling.

Farmers Robert and Shelley Ann White challenged the legality of the GMO ordinance last year, arguing it had prevented them from planting biotech sugar beets on 100 acres of leased property.

During oral arguments in April, much of the debate focused on whether the Whites had legal standing to file the case.

Supporters of the GMO ban called them “hobby farmers” who filed a “manufactured lawsuit” on behalf of agribusiness lobbyists and didn’t have a valid lease to the 100 acres or a contract to grow biotech sugar beets.

Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families, a nonprofit, and Siskiyou Seeds, an organic seed producer, had intervened to defend the ordinance after the county government took a neutral position in the litigation.

The intervenors claimed the Whites had a “purely hypothetical” interest in growing GMOs, which isn’t enough to establish standing.

“They need more than their general disdain for this ordinance to get into court,” said attorney Melissa Wischerath, who represented the intervenors.

The judge disagreed with that characterization, ruling that “the plaintiffs have demonstrated that their conflict with the ordinance is not academic or speculative and that the determination in this case will have a practical effect on them.”

Proponents of the GMO ban also claimed the ordinance should not be pre-empted by state law because Oregon has a “regulatory void” in regard to biotech crops.

Because lawmakers had barred local restrictions on GMOs without establishing a statewide system to protect organic and conventional farmers from cross-pollination, the pre-emption statute is unconstitutional, the invervenors argued.

Wolke found that Oregon law doesn’t require a “replacement regulatory scheme” for a statute to pre-empt local rules.

He also rejected the argument that the pre-emption statute only applies to packaged seeds and not plants, calling this an “absurd interpretation” of the law.

Oregon’s Jackson County was allowed to prohibit GMO crops in 2014 because the initiative in that county was already on the ballot when lawmakers passed the pre-emption statute.

Supporters of Josephine County’s ordinance claimed the limit was arbitrary, but Wolke said it was a “legislative prerogative” to set the cut-off date.

Wolke likewise refused to disregard an Oregon Supreme Court precedent dealing with conflicts between state laws and county ordinances, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

Oregonians for Food and Shelter sees the ruling as a victory for farmers across the state, said Scott Dahlman, the agribusiness group’s policy director.

“It’s a great affirmation that the seed pre-emption law is legal,” he said.

While the ruling confirms the statute is constitutional, it’s possible that a similar court battle would have to be fought if another Oregon county passes and tries to enforce a similar GMO ban, Dahlman said.

Currently, supporters of a GMO ban in Lane County are gathering signatures for a prospective ballot initiative, he said.

Read the original article in the Capital Press HERE