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Wednesday, May 8, 2024 | Back issues
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NFL Star Blames Turf for $10 Million Injury

HOUSTON (CN) — A former star linebacker for the Houston Texans sued the team and the NFL for $10 million, for a career-ending Achilles heel tear he suffered on the Texans' choppy field.

The Texans drafted DeMeco Ryans in 2006 out of the University of Alabama with the 33rd pick. Ryans, now 32, showed a nose for the ball from the start, recording a league-leading 12 solo tackles in his first game. He won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award in January 2007, after finishing second in the league with 155 tackles.

The Texans made him captain of their defense and he never missed a play. The team wired his helmet to receive play calls from the defensive coordinator, a position usually filled by a team's toughest and most cerebral linebacker.

The Texans traded Ryans to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012 and he continued to shine, twice leading the Eagles in tackles.

But Ryans could not recover after tearing his Achilles heel while playing the Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston on Nov. 3, 2014. The Eagles released him in February 2016.

He racked up 939 tackles, 13.5 sacks and 7 interceptions in his 10-year career.

Ryans estimates in his lawsuit that if not for the injury he would have played in the NFL for another five years and made at least $10 million.

He sued the NFL, Houston NFL Holdings LP dba Houston Texans, the stadium owner Harris County Convention & Sports Corp., and the stadium manager SMG, on Oct. 14 in Harris County Court.

He also sued StrathAyr Turf Systems Pty Ltd., an Australian company that made the turf Ryans blames for ending his career.

Ryans says when he played for the Texans, other teams' coaches and players frequently complained about the StrathAyr turf at NRG Stadium: squares of grass grown in trays on a substrate of sand, peat, moss, and mesh wire, and a plastic-and-steel drainage base.

The turf pieces were stored in stacks and transported by forklift to the field before games, so some of pieces were more compacted than others. "These factors caused a lack of uniformity and with years of installations, the modules did not fit together tightly or in a uniform way that created seams, holes and other gaps in the turf surface," the complaint states.

Ryans says the turf also chewed up other elite NFL players.

After then-New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker tore his knee during a game against the Texans in January 2010, the Patriots' typically stoic coach Bill Belichick spoke candidly about the playing surface.

"The turf down there is terrible. 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. ... 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," Belichick said, according to the lawsuit.

Ryans adds that the Texans' outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, drafted with the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, said a hole in the turf caused a knee injury in his first regular season game at NRG Stadium.

Ryans seeks more than $10 million damages for product liability, negligence and premises liability.

He is represented by Robert Ammons in Houston.

The Texans replaced the StrathAyr turf last summer with artificial turf made by UBU Sports.

The Texans franchise is worth $2.6 billion, ninth- highest in the league, according to Forbes.

A Texans spokeswoman said the team doesn't comment on pending litigation.

The National Football League's New York headquarters were closed Sunday and no one was available to talk about the lawsuit.

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