For Pete's Sake

Chiefs’ game in Oakland will mark the end of an era ... for NFL fields

Chiefs coach Andy Reid on his friendship with John Gruden and playing against Raiders quarterback Derek Carr

Chiefs coach Andy Reid on his friendship with John Gruden and playing against Raiders quarterback Derek Carr
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Chiefs coach Andy Reid on his friendship with John Gruden and playing against Raiders quarterback Derek Carr

The Chiefs’ game Sunday against the Raiders not only will be the last meeting between the AFC West rivals in Oakland, it will mark the end of an era in the NFL.

It’ll be the final time a game is played on a field that includes a dirt baseball infield.

This is the Raiders’ final season in Oakland as they will move into a new stadium in Las Vegas for the 2020 season. And after Sunday’s game, the Raiders aren’t scheduled to return to RingCentral Coliseum until Nov. 3, four days after a potential Game 7 of the World Series.

When the Oakland A’s season ends, and they are currently holding a wild-card spot, the dirt infield will be replaced by grass.

So, the Chiefs will be the last visiting team to play on the dirt infield, and former players say good riddance.

“If anyone wants to know what it feels like to fall on that dirt in Oakland Coliseum: Go outside right now, sprint as fast as you can in the middle of the street, once you get to full speed jump up as high as you can and belly flop on the pavement,” tweeted Justin Forsett, a retired running back who played for six NFL teams in nine seasons.

While Raiders quarterback Derek Carr agreed with Forsett’s analysis, some noted that baseball players haven’t made the same complaint.

Forsett’s response: “For those of you saying baseball players do it have no clue how bad that dirt is in the coliseum. It’s not normal when we play on it. Normal infield clay kicks up dust when you run on it but this field is so hard there is no dust. Don’t believe me go ask your local NFL player.”

David Nixon, who played briefly with Raiders, explained the difference:

What set Kansas City apart with the construction of Arrowhead Stadium and Royals Stadium in the early 1970s was most other cities used one stadium for NFL and Major League teams. Among them were Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Oakland.

An NFL building boom began in 1995, and the Raiders’ new home will be the 24th to open in a 25-year span.

As the last NFL team playing on a field it shares with a baseball team, the Raiders will be glad to move. The dirt infield isn’t the only issue. The grass on the infield is different from the outfield.

“It’s been an issue since I’ve been playing here,” Raiders running back Jalen Richard told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last year. “To hear from older guys, it’s been an issue, especially more so around the pitcher’s mound because that area doesn’t get used as much as the outfield. Playing baseball, those guys are steadily running in the outfield, so that grass out there is a little bit sturdier. Inside the mound, by the diamond, that’s where it is real slippery.”

Before the Broncos’ game Monday in Oakland, Denver kicker Brandon McManus practiced kicking off the dirt at Coors Field. McManus made three of four attempts against the Raiders, missing from 64 yards on the dirt.

On Wednesday, the Chiefs’ Harrison Butker and the field-goal team practiced on the infield at Kauffman Stadium. In an odd twist, the Royals will play the A’s in the Coliseum starting Monday, a day after the Chiefs-Raiders game.

Former Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski told the San Francisco Examiner in 2013 that kicking off the dirt wasn’t a big deal.

“It really doesn’t bother me,” Janikowski said. “I think it’s an advantage for us. Guys come in and they think about it so much. And I’m not going to tell them what to do.”

Whether or not there is a disadvantage, fans will no longer see the dirt after Sunday.

“You still have the baseball infield,” Chies coach Andy Reid said in a conference call with visiting media, per the Mercury News. “These guys can tell their grand kids, ‘You know what? They used to play baseball (there) and we used to go out during the baseball season and play on the dirt. Literally. I think there’s something to that.”