CleatsAn Astroturf field is essentially an asphalt parking lot covered over with thin padding and carpeting. It is very unforgiving and has been known to put many players out with knee and ankle injuries. Players prefer natural grass fields -- the type of field a team has will often factor into a player's choice between teams. On natural grass fields, players can use molded-bottom shoes like these:
Football shoes are similar to golf shoes -- the cleats, or spikes, are hard plastic pieces that screw into the bottom of the soles.
Although molded bottoms tend to be more comfortable (and players are more likely to wear them in practice), they are not adjustable to changing conditions, so Miles prefers that the players wear seven-stud cleats on grass fields.
Cleats come in four sizes:
- 1/2 inch (at the start of the season on dry fields)
- 3/8 inch (for normal field conditions once fields have been used in several games)
- 3/4 inch (for wet or soft fields)
- 1 inch (for extreme cases -- think Lambeau Field and the "Frozen Tundra" game)
Teams take dozens of these trunks with them on each road game.
Miles has a database of every field and its surface conditions, and this database is updated through the season. For example, Green Bay and San Francisco have very soft fields (due to excess moisture).
If it rains in the middle of a game, Miles and staff have a big job. If the team is playing on grass, they have to replace all of the cleats on 53 pairs of shoes down on the field. This is fairly easy using electric stud drivers. On Astroturf, the job is more difficult because the players have to change shoes. Many players tape their shoes and most wear orthopedics to custom-fit them, so the process involves untaping the shoes, pulling out the orthopedics, putting the orthopedics in the shoes the player is switching to and then retaping. With 53 players, this process is repeated 106 times! -- not a fun job in the rain or snow.