Redskins

Former Texans punter sues stadium tenant over turf

Former Texans punter sues stadium tenant over turf

HOUSTON (AP) Former Houston Texans punter Brett Hartmann has sued the county agency that operates Reliant Stadium, blaming ``unsafe turf'' for a possibly career-ending knee injury.

The 6-foot-2 Hartmann signed with the Texans as an undrafted free agent in July 2011. He played in the first 12 games last season before tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament and fracturing a bone in Houston's 17-10 win over Atlanta on Dec. 4.

Hartmann's attorneys filed the lawsuit Thursday in Harris County District Court, naming venue-management company SMG and the Harris County Convention and Sports Corporation (HCCSC) as defendants. It doesn't name the Texans, but includes past comments critical of the stadium's surface by nose tackle Shaun Cody, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and former Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy.

``Brett has no ill will toward the Texans,'' said Gene Egdorf, one of Hartmann's attorneys. ``If anything, Brett wishes he was with his teammates and hopes this action will help keep his teammates safe for the rest of this season and into the future.''

The Texans (8-1) play Jacksonville (1-8) at Reliant Stadium on Sunday. Houston coach Gary Kubiak defended the condition of the field.

``I think our field is great. I think our guys do a great job,'' Kubiak said. ``That's all I got to say.''

The lawsuit says several doctors have told Hartmann that his knee remains ``unstable'' and that he needs ``additional surgery, possibly quite extensive.'' He says he hasn't been contacted by other NFL teams since the Texans cut him in August 2012 and fears his playing career is already over.

``I'm kind of at a loss for words, not knowing what's going to happen,'' Hartmann said.

The stadium recently installed removable AstroTurf to be used for non-NFL events. For Texans games, workers piece together more than 1,200, 8-by-8-foot palettes of real grass with forklifts. Hartmann caught his left foot in a seam between palettes and was placed on injured reserve. The lawsuit says Hartmann suffered a ``significant and career-threatening injury.''

Willie Loston, executive director of the HCCSC, also defended the surface and says the county ``will defend the lawsuit vigorously.''

``We have no doubts that the field system is a safe system,'' Loston said in a phone interview.

Loston says the turf is inspected by stadium officials and NFL referees before every Texans game.

``I cannot imagine that, between the referees and the coaches on both teams, that anyone would allow a team to take a field they thought was dangerous,'' Loston said.

Following surgery, Hartmann was suspended for the first four games of the 2012 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Egdorf says Hartmann tested positive for Adderall, which he took to help with a sleep disorder.

The Texans signed veteran Donnie Jones and cut Hartmann in the preseason. Hartmann's suspension was reduced to three games, but then he was suspended for eight games in September for testing positive for a prescription weight-loss drug that he says he never took.

Hartmann didn't appeal the additional suspension because he was afraid the process would drag on and also threaten his chances of playing in 2013. He said he lost 30 pounds in the weeks following his initial knee surgery.

``There'd be no reason for me to take a weight-loss drug, because I'd already lost so much weight from surgery,'' Hartmann said. ``I was kind of baffled. If we would've fought it, and it got delayed, it would've carried over to next season.''

Hartmann has undergone two knee surgeries and plans to have a third one as early as mid-December. He not only tore his ACL, but also suffered a ``fracture at the proximal fibula,'' the lawsuit said. Hartmann says his medical costs have been covered under the league's collective bargaining agreement, but is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit.

``I just want other players that are going to be playing on the field and that are currently playing on the field to be safe,'' Hartmann said. ``I want to make sure their careers aren't taken from there.''

In the final week of the 2009 regular season, Patriots receiver Wes Welker tore his left ACL and MCL when his knee buckled on the Reliant turf. Belichick said afterward that the turf was ``terrible'' and ``inconsistent'' and his comments were included in Hartmann's lawsuit. Egdorf says he did not contact Welker about joining the complaint.

The lawsuit also included a comment attributed to Dungy saying that the Colts were ``definitely concerned about the injury factor'' when playing at Reliant Stadium. It also includes a comment attribute to Cody saying that players ``complaining about the field being torn up'' after the Atlanta game.

Egdorf emphasized that the turf was damaged for the Atlanta game because the stadium hosted a high-school game the previous day.

``You have a specific issue about that day,'' Egdorf said. ``But the primary point is that the design they have, with these squares, you've got four seams on every square. Think of how many squares that is on the field. It's just not safe for a professional athlete to be stepping on those - these big, strong, fast guys who are getting hit, and we see this all the time.''

Quick Links

Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the seasons

kouandjio_2017_usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the seasons

The news about Arie Kouandjio’s quad injury didn’t sound good when NBC Sports Washington broke it a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t sound any better when Jay Gruden said that they were seeking a second opinion. 

And now we have word that Kouandjio will be out for the season, per multiple media reports. While there was some initial hope that he might be able to play at some point this season, he is likely to be put on injured reserve soon. 

The corresponding move is expected to be the signing of guard Isaiah Williams, per JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington. He spent training camp with the Redskins in 2016 and 2017 before being released in the final cuts. Last year he also spent time with the Chiefs and the Colts but he has yet to appear in an NFL game. 

At worst, the Redskins have lost their starter at left guard. Kouandjio was set to compete with Shawn Lauvao for that job. Lauvao, who has been the starter at left guard going into the season for each of the last four years, would have been tough to unseat, but the 26-year-old Kouandjio may have had the inside track.

And at best, the Redskins lost experienced depth. Last year, when injuries hit hard along the offensive line, Kouandjio was re-signed and he started six games. It’s tough to lose experienced depth before the players even put pads on.

We will see if the Redskins make a move to shore up the guard position. Over the next couple of weeks, teams will be evaluating their veteran players and their rookies to see if they have younger and cheaper options. That could lead to some serviceable players getting released or some quality options being put on the trading block. 

The Redskins likely are set to get four compensatory draft picks in 2019, which would give them a total of 11 selections. They certainly could afford to deal one of those picks if they are offered a chance to upgrade at left guard. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Quick Links

Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby has been largely overshadowed in the headlines of the Eastern Conference Final by Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

After two games, Vasilevskiy was one of the bigger storylines for how poorly he played in giving up 10 goals in just five periods. The next three games after that, the storyline changed to how well he was suddenly playing and how he had helped the Lightning steal two wins in Washington and take a 3-2 series lead after Game 5.

Holtby was not mentioned much. His play was not the reason the Caps went up 2-0 or the reason they went down 3-2.

But if the Caps hoped to force a Game 7, they needed him to at least be a reason why they won Game 6.

Holtby responded in a big way. With his team facing elimination, Holtby registered his first shutout of both the regular season and the playoffs.

"It's a perfect time," Devante Smith-Pelly said after the game. "He's been great all year. Obviously an up-and-down year for him personally, but the way he's bounced back, he's been amazing all throughout the playoffs."

Holtby is now just the seventh goalie in NHL history to record his first shutout of the season in a game in which his team faced elimination.

Holtby, however, was not concerned with the stats or the shutout.

"The only reason it’s good is we won," Holtby said of his shutout performance. "Aside from that, it’s just good for [the media], I guess you can write about it. But for us it’s just that W."

Vasilevskiy made a number of jaw-dropping saves, especially in the first period, but Holtby matched him save for save as both teams battled for the first goal. With the score knotted at zero, Holtby made a toe save on Anthony Cirelli on a 2-on-1 opportunity to keep the Lightning off the board. He really upped his game in the third period as Tampa Bay made a late push to tie it. He turned aside 10 shots that frame including a nifty snag on Nikita Kucherov and a glorious glove save on Ondrej Palat.

Holtby's performance ensured the Caps would live to fight another day...for now.

As the series shifts back to Tampa Bay, Washington will again be facing elimination. This time, however, so will their opponents.

Anything can happen in a Game 7. In a winner-take-all game, it may come down to who has the better goalie on Wednesday and Holtby seems to be picking a good time to up his game.

"Braden has been the backbone of our hockey club," Barry Trotz said. "You can’t go anywhere without goaltending and he’s been solid. ... Braden is a true pro, he works on his game, he finds ways to make a difference and he does."

MORE CAPITALS STORIES: