The grounds crew at FirstEnergy Stadium got an overhaul after an incident on Nov. 21, when a trespasser caused some major damage to the turf.
Authorities told News 5 in Cleveland that their working theory is that someone jumped the fence at the stadium and then proceeded to drive a golf cart on the field. The trespasser apparently decided to go on a joy ride that included a few donuts, which caused some serious damage to the turf.
A few weeks after the incident, police identified the suspect as 21-year-old Anthony Robert Westley O'Neal. O'Neal has not been arrested and no charges have been filed. Police say O'Neal will be a "direct indictment" to the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury.
According to News 5, which sent a helicopter to the stadium to get some footage of the damage, the "tire treads wind out from the 20-yard line" and span "almost the entirety of the western side of the field."
It’s been a challenging season for the #Browns on the field. Now the field itself is feeling it too. The team has alerted Cleveland Police after someone vandalized the playing surface overnight, groundskeepers working on repairs https://t.co/eHz7H8Ukwp pic.twitter.com/dBsUuBt521— Jordan Vandenberge (@NEWSjordanv) November 22, 2022
With the damage happening the Tuesday before the game, the grounds crew now has just five days to make sure the field is game ready.
"We are aware of the incident that occurred early Tuesday morning at FirstEnergy Stadium and have provided the Cleveland Division of Police with all relevant information," the Browns said in a statement, via News 5. "Based on our internal evaluation, there was some superficial damage to the playing field that our grounds maintenance team is currently working to repair. We take great pride in the strong reviews and reputation of our stadium's playing surface, have been in touch with the NFL on the matter and are confident after repair [that] our field will be ready for Sunday's game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers."
The field was ready for the Week 12 game, and the Browns beat the Buccaneers in overtime, 23-17.