BY GEOFF HOBSON
Doug Bradley's field has already made the bulletin board in Jacksonville.
Bradley, Paul Brown Stadium's head groundskeeper, said Wednesday the conditions won't be as bad as they were in the Bengals' 24-13 win over Arizona 10 days ago.
But Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin and his running back, Fred Taylor, will be hard sells when the Jaguars play here Dec. 17.
After watching tape of the temporary Bermuda grass coming up in chunks and talking to Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis and Arizona running back Michael Pittman, Taylor on Wednesday referred to the PBS field as "that dirt-bike track," in a conference call with the Cincinnati media.
A few moments later, Coughlin said, "it's not right. We're talking about the NFL and I always try to preach to our ground crew that I want the best field in the NFL.
"It's real difficult to assess the talent or the quality of play when, in fact, the conditions are such that the players can't stand up," Coughlin said. "I would certainly hope something is being done to ensure the footing."
Bradley is doing plenty, but the field is still a tough sell even in the Bengals' locker room.
Quarterback Scott Mitchell figures the field is safer than Astroturf, but "it's terrible." Car buff John Jackson, a former Charger, compared the PBS field to the one in San Diego, "like a Studebaker to a Rolls Royce."
But Bengals coach Dick LeBeau begs to differ. LeBeau has his own Rolls Royce in Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon, a guy getting six yards per carry on this stuff. LeBeau says the Jaguars should wait to see the place.
"I think everybody has a little bit of an advantage with their own field because they're familiar with it," LeBeau said. " But I think Mr. Taylor needs to wait (un)til he gets out there (to pass judgment on it). He can't see a video (and do that but) we'll see."
Taylor joked (or was he?) when he said he was thinking about wearing "baseball cleats."
But Bradley is giving Taylor a big-league effort with the temporary grass that will be ditched after the season in favor of the bluegrass that is being praised by players on the practice fields.
The Bengals' original bluegrass field died in a drought and they had to turn to Bermuda, which has a tough time holding up in cold weather. Especially when two events are on it back-to-back Sundays, and the Arizona game was on the back end of such a stretch.
The field also had trouble recovering from 31 Pee Wee football games played Nov. 10-12.
Because the field will have a two-week rest, Bradley thinks the conditions will be much like the Nov. 26 game against Pittsburgh, "when it held up for three quarters before it got blown out again. We had nothing to start with against Arizona. Now we've got something that's going to bind the sand up for a little while."
Right after the Arizona game, rye grass was planted down the middle of the field and the hash marks. That grass is only 10 days old and the growing season is virtually over. Still, the field is better than it was two weeks ago.
Bradley handled Wednesday's two-inch snowfall
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with a tarpaulin that covered the field as it baked by a heating system.
"There's only a dusting on it," Bradley said. "The heat is knocking it off. We've got to fill in divots and a lot of that will be taken care of when we roll it first thing (Thursday) morning."
Meanwhile, Coughlin sang the praises of ALLTEL Stadium because a new field was installed there in mid-season, after a four-day Billy Graham concert in early November.
The Bengals mulled doing the same thing, but grass simply can't grow in Ohio in November like it can in Florida.
Bradley's crew had concerns that the new sod would be more unsafe because the roots wouldn't take hold and it would have the affect of a slippery carpet covering a hard wood floor.
Taylor was as well informed as the media on Wednesday. Told it was snowing, he laughed because he had heard a Sunday weather report that bode well for warm-weather team.
"We've already got the temperature for Sunday," Taylor said. "44 and low in the 30s."