FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Nick Folk is packing three different pairs of cleats for this Sunday’s game in London, the New York Jets kicker uncertain just how the turf is going to look and play in a stadium built for soccer but now becoming a regular stop on the NFL calendar.
Wembley Stadium will see Folk and the Jets continue the league’s overseas schedule this weekend against the Miami Dolphins, a game that surely serves the NFL’s initiative to push into expanding markets but sees issues with standard of play. The turf at Wembley tends to be longer and thicker than most NFL fields and players have typically picked on the field like it was a nose or a pimple. Perhaps because it is foreign but they say that the field just doesn’t feel like an NFL one. It is different.
No one will be impacted more by the length of the turf than the kickers.
Folk’s kicking shoe will remain constant but his plant shoe, the one that he uses to plant while he swings his other leg for the kick,will depend based on the field’s shape and how his pre-game routines goes. He has different options for “different lengths, different studs.” Depending on the length and thickness of a turf made for soccer, Folk will adjust his cleats.
“I know there is no [soccer] club teamthatplayers here unless England had [an exhibition]here a couple weeks ago, it should probably be in pretty good shape,” Folk said this week.
“I think it will be OK. As long as they don’t keep it a softer pitch, water it down all the time. We’ll just have to deal with it. In 2007, my rookie year, Pittsburgh played Miami over there. The score ended up being 3-0. I remember punts were flying and sticking into the turf.
“I think they’ve upgraded for us, I think they’ve gotten better for football, American football. We’ll see.”
Folk is looking forward to the trip, even with the uncertainty about the field. Wembley is sacred turf for soccer fans and Folk is one. His brother Greg was a professional player and he’s abigtimeNew York Red Bulls fan as well as European and World Cup soccer.
The view you hold on Wembley’s turf varies, perhaps, on who you talk to.
There are differing opinions on what to expect. Outside linebacker Trevor Reilly has heard the horror stories and that the grass is as different as calling an elevator “a lift” or driving on the left side of the road.
“I think the grass is a little bit thicker, from what I’m heading from other players, it’s a different feel,” Reilly told Metro.”We’re used to a shorter field, faster. This is a throwback, I’ll be using screw-in cleats.”
Then there is Erin Henderson, who actually played at Wembley a couple years ago when with the Minnesota Vikings. He remembers the negative talk back then too about the field – “everyone seemed to have something bad to say or that they heard” – but the hype didn’t live up to reality.
“From what I remember, in 2013, it was fine. I don’t remember anything bad about it,” Henderson said. “I don’t remember it being high and slow. It was fine.”
So fine that Henderson had nine tackles on the day in a win by the Vikings.