WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Due to “holes” in the end zones of IG Field, where goalposts for the Canadian Football League’s bigger field are usually planted, the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers played on a shorter field Thursday night.
Lengthy conversations between NFL, Green Bay and Oakland officials ended with the decision that the players should not be in such unsafe conditions, so the playing field was reduced to 80 yards, with each 10-yard line serving as the goal line.
Up until about 20 minutes before kickoff, field workers were trying to tamp down a square of artificial turf in each end zone, to no avail. It would not stay put.
A statement from the NFL was released shortly after kickoff:
“Tonight’s game is being played on a reconfigured field. The field met the mandatory practices for the maintenance of surfaces for NFL games based on an inspection yesterday. Concerns arose today surrounding the area where the Blue Bombers’ goal posts were previously located. The 10-yard line will function as the goal line at this game. In lieu of kickoffs, the ball will be placed at the 15-yard line.”
The Raiders were technically the home team for the exhibition, which raised the question as to why the team would give up a game in Oakland to travel to the middle of a foreign country. Per a league source, the Raiders did not yet have a lease with the Oakland Coliseum when the NFL scheduled its preseason and gave the Raiders a Week 3 home game, be it in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Reno, Las Vegas or Oakland.
But with MLB’s Oakland Athletics home this week, the Raiders had to hit the road to play host, hence the team having talks with Canadian cities Regina and Edmonton and even Honolulu, Hawaii, before signing up with Winnipeg for the first NFL game of any kind played in Western Canada.
And while the Packers, who had planned on playing some front-line players, made a statement by sitting 33 players, it was hard to tell if the Raiders reacted similarly since they did not plan on playing many, if any, starters against Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers, who was questionable to play due to a sore back, was one of the 33 players the Packers sat.
There was at least one other game in NFL history played on a field shorter than 100 yards. In 1932, the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans played the league’s first ever playoff game indoors at Chicago Stadium on a modified 80-yard field due to poor weather.