MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

Apparently, New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was hit in the head by a thrown water bottle as he left the field Monday night after replacing the injured Aaron Rodgers and helping the Jets beat the Buffalo Bills in overtime, which prompted his mother to take to social media and say, “Fans threw a water bottle at Zach as he walked into the tunnel. Horrible fanbase.”

Hopefully for her son, she doesn’t mean the Jets’ fanbase as that relationship is likely to be challenging enough for the lad given the circumstances. Certainly, not even the most unrealistic Jets fan can expect Wilson to play like Aaron Rodgers, but heavy Super Bowl aspirations are hard to shake once they’ve been thrust upon you for an entire offseason regardless of the circumstances.

Not to belabor the Arthur Miller tragedy that has been heaped upon the Jets four plays into the season, for as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve got a lot of Frank Costanza issues with these people. Clearly, though, the Rodgers injury is the biggest story to hit #NFLTheTVShow since, well … Rodgers signed with the Jets in the offseason; and while they say in showbiz that any publicity is good publicity, it’s unlikely that even the suits at 345 Park Avenue were looking to grab the back pages because of a season-ending injury to New York’s star player and attraction, but who really knows with them?

That said, nobody outside of the Baltimore Ravens building and fandom called for sweeping player-safety precautions after running back J.K. Dobbins tore his Achilles and will now miss the rest of the year, but when it’s Aaron Rodgers who tears his to likely prevent a New York team from making a run at the Super Bowl, it calls a lot of folks to action.

The NFL Players Association’s new executive director, Lloyd Howell, has called for the league to change all of its field surfaces to natural grass in the wake of the injury. MetLife Stadium, the home of the Jets and the Giants, installed a new FieldTurf surface, and as we know here, FieldTurf is softer and more forgiving than most artificial surfaces, but that doesn’t provide it with the give of natural grass.

“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 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.”

Howell went on to say in the statement, “While we know there is an investment to make 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, but inferior artificial surfaces are acceptable for our own players. This is worth the investment and it simply needs to change now.”

Well, they’d probably have to postpone some games this week if they do it now, because it takes a while, but Howell’s point is well taken, particularly given the not-a-problem switches to natural grass for international soccer (yes, of course, this was going to end up being soccer’s fault).

Bumbling NFL commissioner Roger Goodell enunciated some words to ESPN on Wednesday, but, in the tradition of Sergeant Schultz, said absolutely nothing, reminding us all once more that player safety remains a focus for the league. He said that the turf-grass debate remains a “complex issue,” that the NFL will continue to address with the union, adding that the NFL and the NFLPA will lean on “science and data” before making any league-wide decisions on the issue.

Truthfully, I never did well in science and am not about to start trying now, but with the naked eye, it did appear Rodgers’ foot might have had more give on real grass, but we’ll never know.

It is unfortunate. It was unfortunate to see all of the players league-wide who were hurt in the first week, with many of them having nothing to do with the artificial turf.

John Harbaugh, head coach of the Ravens, who entered their opener without two of their best players, only to see four more go down, is pretty sure he knows why the injury number is already so high around the league.

The Ravens, you’ll recall, played almost none of their starters in the three-game preseason.

”You practice guys, you don’t practice guys,” Harbaugh said. “You play them in the preseason, you don’t play them in the preseason and injuries happen and that’s the reason, would you do the other thing? It’s like being on a hamster wheel.

“That’s how this whole injury conversation is going in the NFL … We’re all ramping our guys now. Is there a long enough ramp to ramp the guys properly? I’d say no. What they’re going to have to do eventually is they’re going to have to change the whole preseason process and update it.

“They know that it’s not enough time to get guys ready to play in that short preseason period.”

So, of course, the league that focuses on “player safety,” but that wants to eliminate all preseason games so it can have a 20-game regular season is going to extend the preseason for the sake of player safety.

$ure, it is.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT