Former Texan sues over 'unsafe' turf


by Larry Seward / KHOU 11 News

Posted on November 15, 2012 at 8:16 PM

HOUSTON – A former Houston Texans football player is suing the people who manage Reliant Stadium.  He blames the Harris County Convention and Sports Corporation and SMG for maintaining a field that is not safe.

Brett Hartmann was a promising rookie punter living his dream of playing pro football for the Houston Texans.  However, last December, during a home game against the Atlanta Falcons, Hartmann’s career collapsed.

“When I stepped my foot just stuck in the seam and my knee went the other way and I pretty much blacked out,” Hartmann said.

He tore his left ACL and broke a bone that connects his knee and hamstring.  After two surgeries, including have a screw inserted and removed, Hartmann said doctors do not know if he will ever play football again.

“I am kind of sometimes at a loss for words with not knowing what’s going to happen,” Hartmann said.

So, with his fiancée and attorney beside him Thursday morning, Hartmann announced a unique lawsuit.  He’s not suing the NFL or the Texans.  Instead, Hartmann wants unknown amounts of money from SMG and Harris County.

“There’s one guy behind (this lawsuit), but (we are) trying to protect everyone,” said Gene Egdorf, Hartmann’s attorney.  “So, Brett stepped up because he’s the one who has been injured this way and said I’ve got to help my fellow players.”

The field is made of giant square palates of grass linked together.  Back in 2002, the designer told KHOU 11 News it was built for player safety.  However, Hartmann said it is not.  He points out past season-ending injuries to other players, including New England’s Wes Welker.  When hurt two years ago, Welker’s coach called Reliant’s field “terrible.”

Neither SMG nor Reliant would comment, citing the pending litigation.

“I will say this, I think our field is great,” said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak.  “I think our guys do a great job.”

“I think (Reliant’s field) is a great surface to play on,” said Texans starting cornerback Jonathan Joseph.  “It’s a fast track and everyone that I’ve talked to feels the same way.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a footing problem here,” said Chris Myers, the Texans starting center.  “Obviously, Brett’s going to do what needs to be done.  It’s his own personal assessment, but I’ve never had any issues here.  I think we have a great grounds crew.”

Hartmann believes most of his former teammates feel differently.

“I know a lot of people were concerned about it,” Hartmann said.

So, he hopes his lawsuit changes their playing field for the better.