HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – During the Texans 17-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Reliant Stadium, punter Brett Hartmann went down with an injury without being touched. A routine punt during the final minute of the game led to Hartmann being helped off the field by Texans trainers as he hopped on one foot to get to the sideline.
“It’s my understanding that he just got caught in the seam or tripped,” coach Gary Kubiak said about Hartmann’s fall.
He was not the first player of the day to suffer a painful injury after a fall that didn’t involve physical contact with anybody else.
The field seemed to be more of an issue on Sunday possibly because there was a high school playoff game at Reliant Stadium on Saturday.
“I know some guys were complaining about it,” nose tackle Shaun Cody said. “Because they played a game on it, it might be a little torn up.”
Dropping like flies
Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson, who missed six games after tearing a hamstring muscle in his right leg, suffered a game-ending injury while running a deep route in full stride in the fourth quarter.
“I pulled up with something in my left hamstring,” said Johnson, who will have an MRI on Monday. “It’s very aggravating. I never had hamstring problems, so I’m wondering where it’s coming from.”
Inside linebacker Brian Cushing experienced a similar, less severe, flukey tumble to the ground during the second quarter after Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez changed directions while running with the ball. He hobbled off the field from an apparent knee injury and eventually left the game for the locker room. He returned for the second half after having x-rays, which didn’t reveal any damage to his knee or leg.
“I was a little nervous, especially with the way it (knee) got caught under me,” Cushing said about going down.
All three of those players went down untouched.
A bunch of squares
In most retractable-roof or domed stadiums, teams use natural grass or some form of synthetic turf, which is installed by unrolling it onto the space.
The field inside Reliant Stadium is composed of actual grass on top of several square pallets, which are pieced together like a puzzle and dissembled when the space is needed for other events. On the seams and corners where each pallet is pieced to the next exist visible unevenness.
The continuity problem between each pallet causes gaps, indentions and lifted areas that can cause tripping.
Cody, who’s in his seventh NFL season and third with the Texans, says he doesn’t know of another NFL field that is pieced together like the one at Reliant.
“It’s a little squirrely sometimes,” Cody said. “When it’s dry, it gets a little lumpy. I didn’t think it was too bad; but then again, I wasn’t running around as much as the other guys.”
Combat the problem
Tight end Joel Dreessen has five touchdown catches for the Texans this season and knows all about the complications that can happen when running down the field.
“I thought it was really good at first considering they played some high school games on it,” Dreessen said about the game-day grass. “But it (the field) got chopped up fast.
“I was on the ground too much. I slipped a couple times. I’ll probably wear the longer spikes at Reliant for the rest of the year.”
Even though the field’s unevenness may pose a threat to Texans players, Kubiak says injuries are a part of the NFL.
“I think our field is pretty good,” Kubiak said after Sunday’s game. “It’s put together different than most fields, but I haven’t noticed that it’s been any different than any other place we play.”