Butkus Chimes in on Soldier Field Turf, HGH, and Bubba Smith...
Butkus tackles Soldier Field turf, HGH testing
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...0-11142618.jpg Dick Butkus prefers grass fields over artificial turf. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Tribune Photo)
By Fred Mitchell Tribune reporter 4:26 p.m. CDT, August 11, 2011
Dick Butkus is renowned for being one of the most violent and aggressive players in NFL history. Yet the former Bears Hall of Fame middle linebacker is a prominent advocate for health and safety on and off the football field.
Butkus weighed in on a variety of provocative topics Thursday during an interview with the Tribune, including the new NFL game-day random tests for illegal supplements, the balky turf issues at Soldier Field and the recent death of fellow NFL star and acting colleague Bubba Smith.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...118-187105.jpg Story: Soldier Field grass has been unstable for long time
As a first-round draft pick out of Illinois, Butkus began his pro career in 1965, when the Bears played at Wrigley Field. Then came the move to Soldier Field.
“In 1971 we moved in there and they had AstroTurf down there, which was like playing on concrete,” Butkus said via phone from Los Angeles. “It wasn’t as advanced as it is today.”
Butkus remains incredulous about the ongoing problems with the Soldier Field natural grass, which caused last Friday night’s practice to be cancelled.
“I don’t know if it is the moisture or what, but why don’t they get that guy (George Toma) from Kansas City, and get someone in there and grow grass the right way,” said Butkus. “I was talking to somebody at the Hall of Fame (in Canton, Ohio last weekend) and he said he was on the field (last Friday) and he couldn’t believe how bad it was.
“To me, you’re a pro. You should be able to play on a parking lot or in a prairie somewhere. But of course nowadays everybody has to have it picture-perfect. And I just don’t understand why either the (Chicago) Park District or the Bears can’t seem to find someone who knows how to grow grass. Geez … I think it’s ridiculous. At this stage of time, that a stadium has trouble with turf … come on now. What’s with that?
“I liked (playing on) the grass. It gives a little bit and I think it’s much safer. Over the course of time and the pounding … if you have an injury, it just seems like AstroTurf just compounds it all the more. That’s just my personal experience with it. We played in Houston (at the AstroDome) and that was like playing on concrete. I thought it was great, but I was healthy then. But as soon as I had knee problems, it was torture.”
Butkus was in Los Angeles with EAS Sports Nutrition to talk about safe, clean sports supplements and the EAS 100 percent certification. His organization, “I Play Clean,” has partnered with EAS Sports Nutrition to raise awareness among athletes.
Regarding the NFL’s recent decision to randomly test players throughout the season, Butkus said: “I think it’s good. Steroids … I guess they are able to mix them now. HGH, there is so much more that we have found out about it and that it causes cancer. And there are some who speculate that it actually lowers your strength instead of raising your strength. So I think it is a good move by the NFL. I think they are doing these guys a favor by helping them out with their health. We are trying to nip that in the bud with high schoolers.”
Butkus and Smith were pioneers when it came to athletes appearing in beer commercials on television. Smith died Aug. 3 in Los Angeles at the age of 66.
“We had 14 years with Miller (Lite Beer) and another three or four working on some (TV) series work. We got to know each other and spend a lot of time together,” Butkus said. “When you work on a series, you are with someone for a long time. I’ve got to tell you, I was shocked about (Smith’s death). Just a week or so before, someone brought up his name about something we had done. But we had so much fun doing those Miller spots. That led to me actually coming out here (to Hollywood) and getting into acting a little bit.”
Butkus said he was planning to attend Smith’s funeral Thursday afternoon.
“We had some scripts that we worked on that were that close to getting made (into movies or TV series). We had a good run at it,” said Butkus, who appeared with Smith in the TV series “Blue Thunder.”
“We were able to be on a number of series and we had a good thing going. We worked very well together. I knew of him playing-wise, but never had that much contact until the commercials brought us together. We both were not afraid to be the fall guy and let the other guy have the punch line. It didn’t bother us at all. I just thought he had the looks and I could react off of that.”
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