Elsa/Getty Images
Aaron Rodgers is helped off the field by team trainers after an injury during the first quarter of the New York Jets' game against the Buffalo Bills.
CNN  — 

For New York Jets fans, it was a feeling of sadness, despondency and familiar memories; a star quarterback injures his Achilles tendon in the first game of the season for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations.

While Vinny Testaverde’s 1999 season-ending injury hurt, for a team with realistic dreams of lifting a first Super Bowl title since 1968, Aaron Rodgers’ complete tear of his left Achilles felt like being punched in a still sore gut yet again.

For many neutrals, it was a feeling of disappointment at seeing an NFL great being ruled out until September next year, if he decides to return at all.

But for some of Rodgers’ fellow NFL players, the reaction to the 39-year-old’s season-ending injury was more visceral.

Watching one of their ranks be so cruelly struck down just four plays into a debut season with a new team, especially with so much excitement around the Jets, was gut-wrenching, and criticism has begun to rain down on league officials in an ongoing debate about playing on artificial turf rather than grass.

The most vociferous of those calls came from Rodgers’ former Green Bay Packers teammate and close friend David Bakhtiari who published a series of posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, suggesting that the artificial turf used at MetLife Stadium – the Jets home stadium where Rodgers sustained the injury – played some role in the four-time MVP’s Achilles tear.

“Congrats [NFL]. How many more players have to get hurt on ARTIFICIAL TURF??!” the five-time All-Pro left tackle posted. “You care more about soccer players than us.

“You plan to remove all artificial turf for the World Cup coming up. So clearly it’s feasible. I’m sick of this..Do better!”

In another post, Bakhtiari said: “Can we put an end to this sh*t already.”

Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Rodgers and Bakhtiari celebrate a touchdown for the Packers against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lambeau Field on November 15, 2020.

Although six MLS teams play their home matches on artificial turf, all matches at the 2026 World Cup will be played on natural grass. In the NFL, 17 of the 32 NFL franchises play on an artificial surface of one form or another.

Bakhtiari’s calls were echoed by his fellow long-time Packers teammate and now Jets wide receiver Randall Cobb.

“We wanted the NFL to protect the players with grass fields, but the NFL is more worried about making money,” Cobb told reporters after the Jets’ win over the Bills, per The Athletic.

“Profit over people, it’s always been the case. I’ve never been a fan of turf. That’s my stance.”

CNN has reached out to the NFL for comment regarding Bakhtiari and Cobb’s comments.

In an ESPN interview on Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would rely on science to figure out the turf debate.

“That’s where we make decisions on the basis of science, not because I see an injury that I don’t like. Ultimately, I want our experts to come back and give it to us,” he said.

“When you look at the turf, you’ve also got to look at the cleats, and there are a lot of factors and it’s a complex issue.”

After the game on Monday, Jets head coach Robert Saleh downplayed speculation about the role the new turf field at MetLife Stadium played in Rodgers tearing his left Achilles tendon.

“If it was a non-contact injury, I think that’d be something to discuss obviously, but that was kind of a forcible – I think that was trauma induced,” Saleh told reporters on Tuesday, though he added: “I do know the players prefer grass and there’s a lot invested in those young men.”

Steph Chambers/Getty Images
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes holds the Lombardi Trophy after the Chiefs won Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, February 11. Mahomes was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman Jr., top, celebrates with Mahomes after they connected for a 3-yard touchdown pass that won the Super Bowl.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce yells at coach Andy Reid after Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco fumbled in the red zone during the second quarter. The Chiefs trailed San Francisco 10-3 at halftime.
Doug Benc/AP
San Francisco 49ers safety Ji'Ayir Brown intercepts a Mahomes pass on the opening drive of the second half.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie defends a pass intended for 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel during the second quarter.
Kelley L Cox/USA Today Network/Reuters
49ers quarterback Brock Purdy holds the George Halas Trophy after winning the NFC championship game on January 28. The 49ers beat the Detroit Lions 34-31.
Julio Cortez/AP
Taylor Swift kisses Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce after the Chiefs' AFC championship victory on January 28. Kelce caught 11 passes -- nine in the first half -- and had one touchdown as Kansas City dominated the time of possession battle.
Nick Wass/AP
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers falls as he fumbles into the end zone for a touchback against the Kansas City Chiefs on January 28.
Junfu Han/USA Today Network/Reuters
Detroit Lions wide receiver Josh Reynolds, left, celebrates a touchdown with running back Craig Reynolds during the Lions' game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, January 21, at Ford Field in Detroit. The Lions won 31-23.
Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP
Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire carries the ball in the second quarter of the Chiefs' 27-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, on January 21. The reigning Super Bowl champions will face the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship.
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw tackles Green Bay Packers running back Emanuel Wilson on Saturday, January 20, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers won 24-21 and will move on to the NFC Championship game.
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson evades Houston Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins to score an 8 yard touchdown on January 20 in Baltimore. The Ravens won 34-10 and earned a spot in the AFC Championship game next weekend, their first since the 2012 season.
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts runs in his own end zone, looking for someone to throw to, during a playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday, January 15. He was later called for intentional grounding on the play, resulting in a safety. The Eagles, last year's NFC champion, lost 32-9.
Kathryn Riley/Getty Images
Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox celebrates with fans after scoring a first-half touchdown against Pittsburgh on January 15. The Bills won 31-17.
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo's Highmark Stadium is covered in snow before the playoff game against Pittsburgh on January 15. The game was delayed a day because of winter storm conditions.
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
Detroit Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs runs the ball during the Lions' 24-23 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, January 14. It was the Lions' first playoff win since the 1991 season.
Ron Jenkins/Getty Images
Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander celebrates an interception during the first quarter of the Packers' upset win over the Dallas Cowboys on January 14. The Packers won 48-32, becoming the first No. 7 seed to win an NFL playoff game.
Michael Owens/Getty Images
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott stands for the national anthem before the game against Green Bay on January 14.
Emily Curiel/The Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service/Getty Images
The helmet of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes breaks as he is hit by Miami Dolphins safety DeShon Elliott during the Chiefs' 26-7 victory over the Dolphins on Saturday, January 13. The temperature at kickoff was -4 degrees Fahrenheit in Kansas City, with a wind chill of -20 degrees. That made it the fourth-coldest game in NFL history, according to the Peacock broadcast.
Ryan Kang/AP
Houston Texans linebacker Christian Harris celebrates after returning an interception for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns on January 13. The Texans returned two interceptions for touchdowns as they defeated the Browns 45-14.
Rich Storry/Getty Images
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Trent Sherfield celebrate after a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, January 7. The Bills defeated the Dolphins 21-14 to win the AFC East title and clinch a home playoff game next week. The Dolphins — in first place for much of the season — had to settle for a wild-card spot.
Brian Fluharty/USA Today Network/Reuters
New York Jets long snapper Thomas Hennessy shovels snow along the sideline during a game at New England on January 7. The Jets won 17-3, but both teams finished the season well out of the playoff picture.
Adam Hunger/AP
New York Giants linebacker Micah McFadden breaks up a pass intended for Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott on January 7. The Giants upset the Eagles 27-10 to end their season on a winning note. The Eagles made the playoffs as a wild-card team.
David Butler II/USA Today Network/Reuters
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline as they take on the New York Jets on January 7. Belichick confirmed on January 11 that he is leaving the New England Patriots after 24 seasons, during which the franchise won six Super Bowl titles.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
San Francisco 49ers safety Tayler Hawkins celebrates with teammates after an interception on January 7. The 49ers went on to lose 21-20 to the Los Angeles Rams, but they already had the No. 1 seed locked up in the NFC. The Rams were already set as a wild-card team.
Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brandin Cooks eyes Washington Commanders cornerback Emmanuel Forbes during the Cowboys' 38-10 victory on January 7. With the win, the Cowboys clinched the NFC East title and the No. 2 seed in the conference playoffs.
Jeffrey Phelps/AP
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Romeo Doubs can't quite pull in the catch while being defended by Chicago Bears cornerback Tyrique Stevenson on January 7. The Packers won 17-9 to clinch a playoff spot.
Jeff Dean/AP
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Mitchell Wilcox meets with fans after the Bengals' 31-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns on January 7. Cincinnati finished the season out of the playoffs. Cleveland had already secured a wild-card spot.
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris runs the ball during the Steelers' 17-10 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, January 6. The Ravens rested many of their starters, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, as they had already clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Steelers made the playoffs as a wild-card team.
Chris Szagola/AP
Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner makes a one-handed touchdown catch in front of Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nicholas Morrow on Sunday, December 31. The Cardinals beat the Eagles 35-31.
Nick Cammett/Getty Images
Cleveland Browns safety Juan Thornhill celebrates after beating the New York Jets on Thursday, December 28. The Browns defeated the Jets 37-20, securing a spot in the playoffs. It will be the Browns' first postseason appearance since 2020, and third since 1999.
Chris Szagola/AP
New York Giants wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson, right, and teammates react to their 33-25 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, December 25.
Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Network/Reuters
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes recovers his fumble as he is hit during the Chiefs' disappointing 20-14 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on December 25. The loss ensured the Chiefs cannot earn the No.1 seed in the AFC and postponed the sealing of their eighth consecutive AFC West title, as they fell to 9-6.
Matt Krohn/USA Today Network/Reuters
Detroit Lions safety Ifeatu Melifonwu celebrates after he intercepted a pass during the Lions' 30-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, December 24. The Lions secured their fist division title since 1993 with the win.
Adam Hunger/AP
New York Jets linebacker Quincy Williams grabs the jersey of Washington Commanders wide receiver Curtis Samuel on December 24. The Jets beat the Commanders 30-28.
Danny Karnik/AP
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Josh Downs can't make the catch as Atlanta Falcons cornerback Clark Phillips III defends on December 24. The Falcons won 29-10.
Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens points to a Cincinnati Bengals defender as he runs by during the Steelers' 34-11 win against the Bengals on Saturday, December 23.
Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Chamarri Conner, Charles Omenihu and Nick Bolton of the Kansas City Chiefs tackle New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday, December 17. The Chiefs won 27-17.
Lauren Sopourn/Miami Dolphins/AP
Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert runs the ball during a the team's 30-0 win against the New York Jets on December 17.
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder throws the ball during the first half on December 17. The Carolina Panthers beat the Falcons 9-7.
Sam Navarro/USA Today Network/Reuters
Miami Dolphins linebacker Bradley Chubb sacks New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson on December 17.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito walks off the field after losing 24-6 to the New Orleans Saints on December 17.
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
Detroit Lions tight end Sam LaPorta dives into the end zone for a touchdown on Saturday, December 16. The Lions beat the Denver Broncos 42-17.
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley walks off of the field after losing 63-21 to the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday, December 14. Staley and general manager Tom Telesco were fired the next day. The game was a franchise record for points scored by the Raiders, and a franchise worst for points allowed by the Chargers, per NFL.com.
Rich Storry/Getty Images
Tennessee Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins catches a pass during a Monday Night Football game against Miami on December 11. The Titans trailed 27-13 with 3:08 left in the fourth quarter, but they scored two touchdowns late to win 28-27 in regulation.
Quinn Harris/Getty Images
D.J. Moore of the Chicago Bears celebrates a touchdown during the first quarter of the Bears' 28-13 upset win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, November 10.
Sam Hodde/AP
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jake Ferguson leaps over Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Kelee Ringo during the Cowboys' 33-13 victory on December 10. With the win, the Cowboys extended their home winning-streak to 15 games.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes looks to pass in the fourth quarter of a narrow 20-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills on December 10.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown on December 10. The Falcons lost 29-25 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
David Tulis/UPI/Shutterstock
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Tylan Wallace escapes multiple attempted tackles during a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown in overtime against the Los Angeles Rams on December 10. Wallace's touchdown earned the Ravens a 37-31 victory.
Godofredo A. Vásquez/AP
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa celebrates after sacking Seattle Seahawks quarterback Drew Lock on December 10. Lock started for the Seahawks on Sunday after veteran Geno Smith was ruled inactive. The 49ers won 28-16.
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence reacts after suffering an injury during the Jaguars' 34-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, December 4.
Matt Slocum/AP
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy looks to pass during the 49ers' 42-19 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, December 3.
Al Bello/Getty Images
New York Jets quarterback Tim Boyle prepares to snap the ball during the Jets' 13-8 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on December 3.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Roger McCreary of the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts running back Trey Sermon attempt to catch the ball on December 3. The Colts beat the Titans 31-28 in overtime.
Eric Hartline/USA Today Network/Reuters
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk a catches touchdown pass in the end zone on December 3.
Eric Christian Smith/AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton celebrates after catching a 45-yard touchdown pass on December 3. The Broncos lost to the Houston Texans 22-17.
Roger Steinman/AP
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brandin Cooks catches a pass for a first down as Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams defends during the Cowboys' 41-35 Thursday Night Football win on November 30.
Matt Slocum/AP
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts celebrates after scoring the game winning touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in overtime on Sunday, November 26. The Eagles won 37-34.
Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Drew Sample dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the Bengals' 16-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 26.
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
Desmond Ridder of the Atlanta Falcons hands the ball off to Tyler Allgeier during the Falcons' 24-15 victory over the New Orleans Saints on November 26.
Matt Slocum/AP
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus catches a touchdown pass over Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde on November 26.
Chris Pedota/USA Today Network
Miami Dolphins safety Jevon Holland runs the ball after intercepting New York Jets quarterback Tim Boyle's Hail Mary pass on the 1-yard line on Friday, November 24. Holland ran it to the other end of the field, weaving through the scrambled defense, for an astonishing 99-yard interception touchdown. The Dolphins beat the Jets 34-13.
Jerome Miron/USA Today Network/Reuters
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott eats a turkey leg after the Cowboys' 45-10 Thanksgiving Day victory over the Washington Commanders on November 23.
Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images
Christian Watson of the Green Bay Packers makes a catch for a touchdown during a game against the Detroit Lions on November 23. The Packers beat the Lions 29-22.
David Eulitt/Getty Images
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling drops a pass late in the fourth quarter during the Chiefs' Monday Night Football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on November 20. The Eagles beat the Chiefs 21-17 in the Super Bowl rematch.
Mark J. Terrill/AP
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon sacks Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford on Sunday, November 19. The Seahawks beat the Rams 17-16.
Aaron M. Sprecher/AP
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow holds his wrist after a throw during the Bengals' 34-20 Thursday Night Football loss to the Baltimore Ravens on November 16. He tore a ligament in his right wrist.
Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA Today Network/Reuters
Indianapolis Colts safety Julian Blackmon celebrates with teammates after intercepting the ball during the Colts' 10-6 victory over the New England Patriots in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, November 12.
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jayden Reed stiff arms Joey Porter Jr. of the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 12. The Steelers beat the Packers 23-19.
Mike Christy/Getty Images
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray runs the ball during the Cardinals' 25-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on November 12. It was Murray's first game back in action after being injured late last season.
Chris O'Meara/AP
Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs recovers a fumble on November 12. The Buccaneers beat the Tennessee Titans 20-6.
Harry How/Getty Images
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, second from bottom, is tackled by Detroit's Aidan Hutchinson and Derrick Barnes, top, during the Chargers' 41-38 loss to the Lions on November 12. Detroit linebacker Jack Campbell is on the bottom.
Steve Luciano/AP
New England Patriots wide receiver Demario Douglas evades Indianapolis Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II on November 12.
Quinn Harris/Getty Images
Noah Sewell, right, and Jaquan Brisker of the Chicago Bears celebrate during the Bears' 16-13 Thursday Night Football win over the Carolina Panthers on November 9.
Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images
Kansas City Chiefs players warm up prior to a game against the Miami Dolphins in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, November 5. The Chiefs beat the Dolphins 21-14.
Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images
Minnesota Vikings backup quarterback Joshua Dobbs reaches for the pylon during the Vikings' 31-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on November 5. Dobbs, who was acquired by the Vikings in a trade last week, threw for 158 yards with two touchdowns in the air and one on the ground.
Cooper Neill/Getty Images
C.J. Stroud of the Houston Texans drops back to pass during the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 5. Stroud threw for 470 yards in the Texans' narrow 39-37 victory.
John Locher/AP
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones grimaces after being sacked during the Giants' 30-6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on November 5.
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet catches a touchdown pass while defended by Tyrann Mathieu of the New Orleans Saints on November 5. The Saints beat the Bears 24-17.
Michael Owens/Getty Images
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren evades Tre Avery of the Tennessee Titans on Thursday, November 2. The Steelers beat the Titans 20-16.
Joe Robbins/AP
Detroit Lions fans cheer on a third down play during the Lions' 26-14 Monday Night Football victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on October 30.
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Denver Broncos cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian celebrates a second quarter interception in Denver on Sunday, October 29. The Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs 24-9.
George Walker IV/AP
Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis throws a pass during the Titans' 28-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on October 29. Levis threw four touchdowns during the game, his NFL debut.
Alex Brandon/AP
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown makes a one-handed catch to score a touchdown against Washington Commanders cornerback Benjamin St-Juste on October 29. The Eagles beat the Commanders 38-31.
Michael Conroy/AP
Indianapolis Colts running back Zack Moss reaches for a one-yard touchdown run during the Colts' 38-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints on October 29.
Jack Dempsey/AP
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes walks off the field after the Chiefs' loss to the Denver Broncos on October 29. Mahomes, who was set to make history with a win, threw two interceptions and no touchdowns.
Josie Lepe/AP
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Irv Smith Jr. runs past San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga on October 29. The Bengals beat the 49ers 31-17.
Rich Barnes/Getty Images
Dalton Kincaid of the Buffalo Bills celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the Bills' 24-18 Thursday Night Football victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 26.
Michael Dwyer/AP
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, right, embraces Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott after the Patriots beat the Bills 29-25 on Sunday, October 22. It was Belichick's 300th regular-season victory.
Jamie Sabau/USA Today Network/Reuters
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams drops a pass in the end zone on October 22. The Raiders lost 30-12 to the Chicago Bears.
Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images
Atlanta Falcons placekicker Younghoe Koo celebrates with teammates after making a game-winning field goal on the final play of the Falcons' 16-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 22.
Jack Dempsey/AP
Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams evades Green Bay Packers safety Darnell Savage, bottom, on October 22. The Broncos beat the Packers 19-17.
Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Network/Reuters
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor runs the ball during the Colts' 39-38 loss to the Cleveland Browns on October 22.
Charlie Riedel/AP
Teammates run to Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling as he celebrates his touchdown during the game against the Los Angeles Chargers on October 22. The Chiefs won 31-17.
Sue Ogrocki/AP
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy scrambles away from Cleveland Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah during the second half of the 49ers' 19-17 loss on Sunday, October 15.
Lynne Sladky/AP
Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert jumps over Carolina Panthers cornerback CJ Henderson on October 15. Mostert had two touchdowns during the Dolphins' 42-21 victory.
Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields warms up wearing a #51 patch honoring the late Dick Butkus before the Bears' game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field in Chicago on October 15. Butkus, a hard-hitting Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker who played nine seasons for the Bears, died October 5.
Tony Ding/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
Los Angeles Rams linebacker Christian Rozeboom celebrates his interception during the Rams' 26-9 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on October 15.
Kathryn Riley/Getty Images
Quincy Williams of the New York Jets tackles Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith on October 15. The Eagles are 5-1 for the season after their 20-14 loss to the Jets.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes calls a play during the Chiefs' 19-8 Thursday Night Football win over the Denver Broncos on October 12.
David Becker/AP
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jayden Reed sits on the sideline as Las Vegas Raiders' Robert Spillane is congratulated after his interception on Monday, October 9. The Raiders beat the Packers 17-13.
Paul Sancya/AP
Detroit Lions tight end Sam LaPorta tries in vain to pull in a pass reception in Detroit on Sunday, October 8. The Lions beat the Carolina Panthers 42-24.
Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
New York Jets running back Breece Hall carries the ball during a game against the Denver Broncos on October 8. The Jets won 31-21.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
KaVontae Turpin of the Dallas Cowboys catches a touchdown pass during the second quarter of the Cowboys' 42-10 loss the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on October 8.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Indianapolis Colts running back Zack Moss runs the ball for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 8. The Colts beat the Titans 23-16.
Matt Durisko/AP
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens celebrates after catching a 41-yard touchdown pass during the Steelers' 17-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens on October 8.
Joe Camporeale/USA Today Network/Reuters
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase runs past Arizona Cardinals cornerback Marco Wilson after making a catch during the Bengals' 34-20 victory over the Cardinals on October 8. Chase scored three touchdowns during the game.
Gregory Trott/AP
Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack celebrates a sack during the Chargers' 24-17 victory on Sunday, October 1. Mack recorded six sacks, becoming the fifth player in NFL history to do so in a single game.
Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Jacksonville Jaguars fans wave flags ahead of a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley Stadium in London on October 1. It was the first of five international games the NFL has scheduled this season as part of its ever-expanding International Series. The Jaguars won 23-7.
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Brian Robinson Jr. of the Washington Commanders makes a pass reception during the second quarter of the Commanders' 34-31 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on October 1.
Adrian Kraus/AP
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin shouts while warming up ahead of the Bills game against the Miami Dolphins on October 1. Hamlin participated in the opening kickoff, his first regular season appearance after surviving a cardiac arrest on the field nearly nine months ago. The Bills beat the Dolphins 48-20.
George Walker IV/AP
Cincinnati Bengals' Evan McPherson kicks a field goal during a game against the Tennesee Titans on October 1. McPherson was Cincinnati's only player to put points on the board during their 27-3 loss.
Cooper Neill/Getty Images
Amon-Ra St. Brown of the Detroit Lions celebrates with fans during his team's 34-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Thursday, September 28.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert celebrates with teammates Braxton Berrios and Christian Wilkins after scoring one of his four touchdowns during the Dolphins' landslide victory over the Broncos on Sunday, September 24.
Andrew Nelles/USA Today Network/Reuters
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Amari Cooper pulls in a catch for a touchdown during the Browns' 27-3 victory over the Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 24.
Evan Vucci/AP
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen leaps into the end zone for a touchdown during his team's 37-3 win over the Washington Commanders on September 24.
David Eulitt/Getty Images
Grammy Award-winning singer Taylor Swift cheers on the Kansas City Chiefs from the family suite of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on September 24. Swift's show of support comes after weeks of speculation -- by various NFL broadcasters and the vast majority of Swifties -- that she and Kelce are dating. Swift had plenty to cheer about as the Chiefs beat the Chicago Bears 41-10.
Brent Skeen/USA Today Network/Reuters
Indianapolis Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tavius Robinson go after a fumble in the end zone on September 24. The Colts beat the Ravens 22-19.
Dan Powers/USA Today Network/Reuters
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Romeo Doubs fends off New Orleans Saints cornerback Isaac Yiadom during the first half at Lambeau Field on September 24. The Packers edged out a 18-17 win.
Rick Osentoski/AP
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder is sacked by Detroit Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes in the first half at Ford Field in Detroit on September 24. The Falcons lost 20-6.
Cary Edmondson/USA Today Network/Reuters
San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell is tackled by New York Giants linebacker Micah McFadden in the second quarter at Levi's Stadium on September 24. The 49ers remain undefeated after their 30-12 Thursday Night Football win on September 21.
Matt Durisko/AP
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb grimaces after suffering a knee injury in a Monday Night Football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 18. He was carted off the field in the second quarter. Before leaving the game, the star running back had 10 carries for 64 yards.
Michael Ainsworth/AP
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jake Ferguson scores in the first half of a 30-10 win over the New York Jets at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, September 17. It was the Jets' first game without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who suffered an ankle injury during his debut with the team in Week 1.
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence throws a pass during the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at TIAA Bank Field on September 17. Lawrence threw for 216 yards during Jacksonville's 17-9 loss to Kansas City.
Matt York/AP
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Wilson makes a catch over New York Giants safety Jason Pinnock at State Farm Stadium on September 17. The Cardinals narrowly lost 31-28.
Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA Today Network/Reuters
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Noah Gray receives a pass on September 17. The Chiefs beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 17-9.
Adrian Kraus/AP
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams celebrates after scoring the team's only touchdown during their 38-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on September 17.
Elsa/Getty Images
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, making his debut with the New York Jets, is sacked by Buffalo Bills defensive end Leonard Floyd on Monday, September 11. Rodgers suffered an ankle injury and was carted off the field after the play, which occurred during the team's first drive in the first quarter. Before being traded in the offseason, Rodgers had spent the first 18 seasons of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers.
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey looks for space to run the ball in the second half of a 30-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh on Sunday, September 10.
Ron Chenoy/USA Today Network/Reuters
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Jakobi Meyers pulls in a touchdown past Denver Broncos cornerback Damarri Mathis in the first quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on September 10. The score would be important as the Raiders edged the home side, 17-16.
Sue Ogrocki/AP
It was a rough day for Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals as they got trounced by the Cleveland Browns 24-3 on September 10. The highest paid quarterback in the league had a tough start to the season, throwing 14-for-31 for 82 yards and being crushed here by Browns safety Grant Delpit.
Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Deven Thompkins runs with the ball during the fourth quarter of a 20-17 win against the Minnesota Vikings at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on September 10.
Kirby Lee/USA Today Network/Reuters
Los Angeles Chargers kicker JK Scott punts the ball against the Miami Dolphins in the second half at SoFi Stadium on September 10. The Chargers would lose 36-34 to the Dolphins.
Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver/punt returner Zay Flowers catches a deep pass in the first quarter against the Houston Texans on September 10. Baltimore fans had plenty of action to cheer as their team thoroughly handled the Texans 25-9.
Matt Freed/AP
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy on September 10. It was to be one of the only highlights for the home fans as the Niners won 30-7.
Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Network/Reuters
It was a rough start to the year for the Kansas City Chiefs and superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes as they were shocked by the Detroit Lions 21-20 in Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday, September 7. Still, many are predicting the Chiefs will repeat this year.

Real or artificial

Synthetic turf was first introduced in the mid 1960s when the Houston Astrodome, known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” was opened as the home to the Houston Oilers.

Because it was cheaper and required less upkeep than grass, synthetic turf became popular across the league in the 1970s and 80s. The springier surface also allowed for faster, more explosive levels of action.

However, a desire to shift away from artificial turf to natural grass has been advocated by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), whose president, JC Tretter, wrote in April: “For more than a decade, players have been speaking out about their strong preference to work on natural grass over synthetic playing surfaces.

“Players have shared stories about how their bodies feel after playing on turf compared to grass, and the injury data for nearly a decade supports those anecdotes.”

In the article, the NFLPA referenced a “large media offensive” by the NFL to “push back against the historical data and players’ experiences” on artificial turf.

Tretter highlighted analysis shared by the NFL and collated by IQVIA – a third-party company that provides results to the league, the NFLPA and medical and football committees – indicating that injury rates between the two surfaces had gotten better from 2018 to 2021.

However, he argued, looking at data further back showed injury rates on synthetic surfaces were higher than on natural surfaces.

Adam Hunger/AP
New York Jets wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) warms up before playing against the Buffalo Bills.

In 2021, the difference between the number of injuries sustained on the two surfaces was significantly smaller than previous years. However, the NFLPA president believes that single year is an anomaly and that there is a need for change.

Tretter also cited a study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2018 that showed higher rates of lower body injuries sustained on artificial turf than on grass.

In the study, injuries were studied between 2012 and 2016 and it found that play on synthetic turf resulted in a 16% increase in lower extremity injuries per play than that on natural turf.

“Instead of following the long-term data (which is clear on this issue), listening to players and making the game safer, the NFL used an outlier year to engage in a PR campaign to convince everyone that the problem doesn’t actually exist,” the former Packers and Cleveland Browns center said.

Tretter concluded: “The NFL and team owners have the resources to fix these safety issues with fields, and it is inexplicable why there is such a failure to protect players on an issue that EVERYONE knows is a problem.

“It makes absolutely no sense for European soccer clubs to visit the US every year … and play exhibition games at NFL stadiums on high-quality natural grass while NFL players are subjected to greater risk on artificial surfaces.

“And it is absolutely appalling that owners are more willing to provide safe fields for soccer players than for the football players who are the primary workers on those fields – and who, in many cases, helped pay for the stadiums where those fields lay.

“As much as the NFL wants to ignore the grass field issue, the data and their actions will continue to demonstrate their callous hypocrisy.”

At a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Jeff Miller – NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs & policy and health & safety – said there was no difference in rates of Achilles injuries between natural grass and synthetic surfaces dating back to 2015.

“Because an injury happens on a surface doesn’t mean that it’s actually caused by that surface and, in this case, we haven’t seen a data difference for Achilles injuries,” Miller said.

“There’s a lot more work to do. We don’t want those injuries in the game. We want to prevent those that we can, especially major injuries like those and we’ll continue to do that through the data, through the research and through a great deal of effort.”

CNN has reached out to the NFL to inquire about the specific studies Miller referenced in his virtual media appearance and for comment on Tretter’s comments.

When asked on Tuesday what message it sends to league players that a few stadiums change their surface from artificial to grass for soccer and then revert back to the synthetic field for football, Miller said: “We do spend a lot of time thinking about surfaces and their injury rates and how those relate to how our game is played in the particular use cases for football.”

He added: “There are certain natural grass surfaces that from an injury rate perspective have a lower injury rate than synthetic surfaces and some synthetic surfaces that have a lower injury rate than natural grass.

“We want to drive all of those down and the only way to do that is to understand the characteristics of each of those surfaces and how they contribute to injury or don’t contribute to injury.”

Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
Dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World," the Houston Astrodome had AstroTurf installed in the mid 1960s.

In a statement on Tuesday, NFLPA executive director Lloyd Howell questioned why “inferior artificial surfaces” were acceptable for the NFL.

“Moving all stadium fields to high quality natural grass surfaces is the easiest decision the NFL can make,” Howell said.

“The players overwhelmingly prefer it and the data is clear that grass is simply safer than artificial turf. It is an issue that has been near the top of the players’ list during my team visits and one I have raised with the NFL.

“While we know there is an investment to making this change, there is a bigger cost to everyone in our business if we keep losing our best players to unnecessary injuries.

“It makes no sense that stadiums can flip over to superior grass surfaces when the World Cup comes, or soccer clubs come to visit for exhibition games in the summer … This is worth the investment and it simply needs to change now.”

Discussions over the injury risk of playing on artificial turf or grass isn’t confined to the NFL.

A review of studies published in eClinicalMedicine in April concluded that the overall incidence of injuries in soccer “was 14% (7%–21%) lower on artificial turf than on grass” and that “men and women both had lower injury incidences on artificial turf.”

While the debate is sure to rage on in the NFL between the players and the league, what remains is a shocked fan base, team and a player whose dreams of raising the championship trophy have been deflated by a major injury.