8-24-01, 5:05 P.M.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The grass is green instead of rust.
The end zones are slashed in orange instead of black.
Light and dark are dancing with each other every 10 yards instead of every five in a baseball diamond-like pattern.
All was better with the world of Paul Brown Stadium groundskeeper Doug Bradley Friday, 24 hours before his new field debuts in the Bengals' 7:30 p.m. preseason game against the Bills.
But as Bradley painted and lined and pretty much babied the Kentucky bluegrass, he knew there was one thing left to complete the great transformation.
"It's passed every test until now and the only thing left is to see how the players like the footing," Bradley said. "The weather was everything I could have wanted this summer. Almost perfect. There's one piece of the puzzle left."
Last year, of course, was a wretched time for Bradley. His patch resembled Tranquility Base, where Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the longer the season went. Players slipped, grassy chunks flew, and the NFL office seethed as the Bengals struggled with a temporary field of Bermuda grass in place of the original bluegrass field that died in a drought.
Now Bradley says he has turf with roots as long as 10 inches. He says he's had the prefect blend of summer weather to help the field grow into place since being installed in May: A little rain, a lot
of 60ish degrees cool nights and not many 90ish scorcher days. The result is no visible brown spots on the 100-yard greensward, although there are one or two on the side.
"It had some stress when we had that spell," Bradley said of the week-long heat wave in late July and early August. "But it came out of it fine. It was good to see it able to take that stress."
Even during the furnace stretch, Bradley didn't have to water the field during the day. Because it was so healthy and long, Bradley continued his 3:30 a.m. soaks.
He thinks it will react well to the pounding, but. . .
"Let's see what the players think," Bradley said. "It will be a little bit of a difference for them because they were on Bermuda at training camp. This is like the practice fields, so they should be able to get used to it pretty quickly."
Since there is more surface area on bluegrass than Bermuda, the colors of the yard lines, the helmet on the 50-yard line, and the end-zone stripes virtually leap off the blade compared to last year.
Bradley got the idea of going with orange as the major color of the stripes in the end zone from the slashes that run up the side of the Bengals' uniforms.
"There is only one unknown left," Bradley said. "And we find out what that is Saturday."