It happened on December 4th 2011, in the last minutes of the Texans’ game against the Atlanta Falcons. With the Texans leading, then-Texans rookie Brett Hartmann got ready for a punt. He didn’t get very far.
“My foot just stuck in the seam, and my knee went the other way, and I went to the ground, and I pretty much kind of blacked out for 5, 10 seconds, and then I just knew something bad had happened because my knee popped and snapped.”
In a lawsuit, Hartmann claims the torn ligament and fractured calf-bone he sustained from the fall was a result of negligence by the Reliant Stadium management.
Hartmann was released by the Texans in August. Unless his next surgery is successful, his career might be over after playing for not even one full season in the NFL.
He blames the Harris County Convention and Sports Corporation, which owns Reliant Stadium, and SMG, which manages the stadium, for using removable grass trays for the field instead of letting the grass grow in one piece.
Hartmann’s attorney, Eugene Egdorf claims the trays were not installed properly.
“It’s SMG that’s decided we’re going to have 1200 8×8 squares of turf, putting thousands of unsafe seams on the football field.”
He says he hopes future injuries can be avoided with the lawsuit.
“This case is about trying to protect all the athletes that playing at Reliant Stadium and to make sure that our hometown team as well as the opponents can play the game safely and fairly without risk to their careers.”
Hartmann is suing for damages including for medical expenses and lost earnings. No specific amount has been named, although Egdorf says it will be a “significant amount of money.”
Hartmann says there was no reason to include the Texans in the lawsuit and that he hopes his former teammates will be spared his fate.
“The Texans are a great organization and a great team. There’s a bunch of really great guys in the locker room and I just wish them the best the rest of the season, and I just hope that if something’s not done this year, that in the coming years they do something about the field.”
Spokespersons for the Harris County Convention and Sports Corporation and SMG did not return messages asking for comment.