ALAMEDA – The Raiders will play the rest of the season on grass. Infield dirt will no longer complicate home games, causing slips, trips and scrapes.
An Oakland Coliseum shared with the Athletics will only host football for the remainder of the season, with local baseball at its end. The Raiders played an extra home game on dirt – which was postponed until 8:35 p.m. due to an indirect conflict with the A’s – but have five left on a true football field.
While the Raiders don’t believe advantage will be gained or lost by the re-sodded surface, they consider it a welcome return to normalcy.
“It’s nice to be off the dirt,” defensive end Jason Hunter said. “The game will play true, with less problems with traction and stability. That will be the biggest difference.”
Rookie slot receiver Brice Butler had to deal with dirt more than most. While receivers often played from grass the ball was snapped on dirt, and Butler rarely received respite. He either took off from dirt or ran into it on every snap. He had the unfortunate distinction of fending off bump-and-run coverage, running routes between surfaces and getting tackled on the unforgiving surface.
It wasn’t ideal for a rookie trying to find his way, but he dealt with it well.
“Parts of the game are just a step slower, and every second counts in the passing game,” Butler said. “I don’t think it’ll be a plus for one team or another, but I think it’ll be easier to play the game as you normally would. It’s just one less thing you have to think about. “
Oakland Coliseum is the only venue shared by NFL and MLB franchises, so no other team has experience playing on it. Everything is new to an opponent, which might be the only advantage to be had. Oakland Coliseum will be, both literally and figuratively, a level playing field.
“If anything, the dirt helps us more than the field because we’re the only team that experience playing on it,” fullback Marcel Reece said. “What helps us is having the fans behind us.
“Ultimately it doesn’t matter. Dirt is dirt and grass is grass and the parking lot is the parking lot. No matter where you have to play, the goal is to score and make big plays for your team.”