Former Houston Texans punter Brett Hartmann has sued venue-management company SMG and the Harris County Convention and Sports Corporation, blaming “unsafe turf”at Reliant Stadium for a possibly career-ending knee injury.
ESPN reports that Hartmann signed with Houston as an undrafted free agent after a college career at Central Michigan in 2011 and played in 12 games before suffering a torn ACL and fractured leg in a 17-10 win over Atlanta on December 4 of that year.
The Houston Press reports that the turf at Houston’s Reliant Stadium is unique among NFL stadiums. Where the turf at most NFL venues is laid out in a single sheet, Reliant Stadium’s is laid out in 1,200 8×8 squares of real grass. That creates a great deal of seams that can, and according to Hartmann’s lawyers, do cause injuries to players. Hartmann’s leg got caught in one of those seams in the final minute of the game, causing what may turn out to be a career-ending injury. The stadium also has a Astroturf that it uses for non-NFL events.
He was the leading rookie punter in the NFL at the time.
The lawsuit was filed in Harris County District Court does not name the Texans but does refer to comments critical of Reliant Stadium’s turf made by other NFL players.
Since the injury, and his subsequent release by the Texans, Hartmann claims he has not been contacted by another NFL team, and because of this he feels his career may be over prematurely. His medical bills were paid because of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, but the punter is now seeking unspecified damages.
“I just want other players that are going to be playing on the field and that are currently playing on the field to be safe,” Hartmann said. “I want to make sure their careers aren’t taken from there.”
The former punter’s concerns have been echoed by others, including former Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy and Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick. Belichick called the turf responsible for the punter’s injury “terrible” and “inconsistent.”