Chad Pennington reminisces about forcing Patriots’ switch to FieldTurf

In Week 10 of the 2006 NFL season, Chad Pennington and the Eric Mangini-led New York Jets went to Gillette Stadium and beat the New England Patriots on the road, 17-14. Rain on gameday led to poor field conditions throughout the game – the Patriots had natural grass at the time – turning “the field into mud,” Bloomberg News’ Aaron Kuriloff wrote two days later. Two weeks later, in time for their next home game against the Chicago Bears, New England had ditched the grass for FieldTurf.

Pennington, who went on to win the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award that season, remembered the preparation leading up to that game Thursday on Mad Dog Sports Radio.

“[Mangini’s] first year [with the Jets], he knew that we were gonna be playing the Pats in the middle of the season, and it was still when they had a grass field,” Pennington told Evan Cohen. “And he knew that because they practice on their grass field on Friday to where it’s not a great track, that it would be a muddy, kind of messy field by midseason. And so about four weeks before we played them, maybe even six weeks, there was a load of sand dropped on our practice field to prepare for that. … Low and behold, we go up there and play, it’s muddy and messy, our guys are standing up, Vince Wilfork and those guys couldn’t really stand up and get their footing, and guess what happened two weeks later after we beat them: Bob Kraft made sure that there was turf put down there in Gillette Stadium.”

The throwback to nearly a decade ago followed Pennington’s remark that the Patriots use “competitive advantages” to win games – deflated game balls, for example.

“I don’t necessarily think [the Patriots’ dynasty] is tarnished, I just think for players and coaches who compete against them, you just kind of get irritated sometimes,” Pennington said. “I played for Eric Mangini who came straight from Bill Belichick, so I understand some of these competitive advantages they use, and so some of them as a player, you’re like, ‘Well, this is really good, I can use this as a player and make myself better and my team better.'”

Thursday afternoon, Tom Brady said in a press conference that he “didn’t alter the balls in any way” during the Patriots’ conference-championship win over the Indianapolis Colts.

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