Houston (CBS Houston) – Houston Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney suffered a torn meniscus during Houston’s season opening win against Washington. The number one overall pick underwent surgery on Monday and will be sidelined 4-6 weeks.
In the aftermath of the injury, the NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported that D.J. Swearinger, Clowney’s teammate with both the Texans and South Carolina, was told by Clowney that a hole in the turf caused the injury.
“The maintenance of that field, the design of that field is an abomination. And it’s not just an abomination of how it looks, it’s the affect it has on these players.” Gene Egdorf, the attorney who represents former Texans Punter Brett Hartmann told SportsRadio 610’s The Triple Threat.
Hartmann, who played for the Texans in 2011, has filed suit against SMG, the company that technically runs NRG stadium, claiming the ‘unsafe turf’ contributed to a career-ending injury.
“I definitely think they need to do something about it. We like the grass, but I think there definitely could be a better way to put the grass down,” D.J. Swearinger told ESPN Radio. “When we go out there for walk-through, somedays we may see a hole and we ask coach ‘What’s going on today? Can they fix this?'”
NRG stadium uses a pallet system to install the grass field. The field is installed with a series of rectangular pallets all pieced together to create a full sized football field.
“They use these square trays, and we see seams when we are up in the stands. There are 1,400 of those trays that make up that field. So think about it. You have four seams for every square don’t you. There are 5,000 seams on that field. That is more than you ever had on an Astroturf field. And didn’t we always hear about the seams on the Astroturf fields?” Egdorf told SportsRadio 610.
Egdorf added the system was developed by an Australian company, but no one else uses the system in the United States.
“SMG has been trying to get more and more events at (NRG) stadium and they’ve over booked at the cost of the field,” Egdorf said. “When cost cutting takes precedent over safety people get hurt and that’s what happened to (Jadeveon Clowney) on Sunday.”
Players complete their final walk-through on the actual playing surface, not their practice fields they work on during the week. Before the Redskins game, the surface in NRG stadium was so bad that D.J. Swearinger realized it was a potential health risk.
“We actually said that the day before (the injury). If somebody was running right here and (they) plant, their ACL or MCL is gone just because of how deep the holes are,” Swearinger said.
Players are aware of the potential for injury with NRG’s field. So much so, Swearinger checks his footing before each play.
“I was just checking my feet before I even get down in my stance,” Swearinger continued. “Just to make sure I don’t have a gap or a hole next to my feet.”
On Monday, Bill O’Brien denied NRG’s pallet system had anything to do with Jadeveon Clowney’s injury.
“(Clowney) didn’t say anything to me about that,” O’Brien said. “From looking at all the angles on film he just came down awkwardly.”
When asked point blank if he had a problem with NRG’s playing service, O’Brien responded, “Nope.” But oddly enough, Bill O’Brien was with the New England Patriots when Wes Welker tore his ACL in a non-contact injury at NRG. After the incident Bill Belichick had this to say:
“The turf down there is terrible,” Bill Belichick told Boston’s WEEI-FM the day after Wes Welker tore his ACL at then Reliant Stadium. “It’s terrible. It’s just inconsistent. It’s all the little trays of grass and some of them are soft and some of them are firm and they don’t all fit well together, those seams… Some of it feels like a sponge, some of it feels real firm and hard like the Miami surface. One step you’re on one, the other step you’re on another. I really think it’s one of the worst fields I’ve seen.”
The Texans share NRG Stadium with the Houston Livestock show and Rodeo. But contrary to what some believe, the livestock show and rodeo doesn’t play a role in determining the field system used for Texans games.
“The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has no say or preference in the surface used for Texans games,”Joel Cowley, President and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo told SportsRadio 610 through a spokesperson. “They have their six months and we have ours.”
So who has the final say on whether or not the current field should stay or go?
“The Texans have taken the position, historically, that the field issues are all up to SMG,” Egdorf said. “The way I understand it, from my involvement in the case, legally they don’t have the sole authority but in reality they do. If the Texans just told SMG they want to have field turf, there would be field turf.”
Artificial turf has been used before at NRG. It was most recently used for the Advocare Texas Kickoff featuring LSU and Wisconsin.
The condition of the Texans field has been an on-air topic on multiple occasion. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have commented about it on Sunday night football. Tony Dungy, the former Colts head coach who used to have his team play on the surface, has also commented publicly on it before.
“Everybody except SMG and Mr. McNair seem to recognize it.” Egdorf said.
SportsRadio 610 reached out to the Houston Texans for comment, but the request was not immediately returned.
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