Splitting Blades: Houston Texans Combat Latest Challenge to NRG Stadium Turf Safety

Coming on the heels of hosting Super Bowl LI, the National Football League and the Houston Texans are fending off another lawsuit resulting from a football-related injury. Former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans filed suit last October, alleging that the turf at NRG Stadium, the home field of the Houston Texans, caused his career-ending injury. During a game against the Texans on November 2, 2014, Ryans jumped to intercept a pass, but, upon landing, tore his Achilles tendon, ending his season. Ryans seeks damages in excess of $10 million.

The suit alleges that the turf at NRG Stadium, a property operated by stadium-giant SMG (stadium management group), causes a dangerous playing condition on the field. The construction of the field at NRG Stadium is not like many others. While many NFL playing surfaces are turning to grass replacements like Fieldturf, which uses fake blades of grass embedded within a layer of shredded rubber to reduce impact, NRG Stadium uses something different. In an attempt to combine real grass with turf, the surface is composed of individual trays of grass—grown and maintained outside of NRG Stadium—interwoven with strips of artificial turf. A number of NFL player injuries have been blamed on the grass including Wes Welker while playing with the Patriots, Texans punter Brett Hartmann, and Texans defensive-great Jadeveon Clowney. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick called the turf “terrible.”

After his injury, Ryans was forced to retire after being placed on the injured reserve list. Without offering an official explanation, new turf was installed in 2015 that remains in use today. Ryans suit continues against the league and the Texans, the team he began his career with, who have yet to comment on the matter. The San Francisco Forty-Niners hired Ryans as their new Defensive Quality Control Coach, where he will be working with his former defensive coordinator in Houston, Robert Saleh.

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