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Former Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans had carved out a nice NFL career from 2006 and 2014. Ryans was the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009, served as a captain in Houston and racked up racked up 939 tackles, 13.5 sacks, and 7 interceptions in his career. Ryans even led the Eagles in tackles his last two seasons.
So by all accounts his illustrious career would've continued, had he not torn his Achilles tendon during a visit to his former team in Houston. Ryans was not the first injured player to complain about Houston's turf problems, and he's now the second to sue them over it.
For background, the StrathAyr turf at NRG Stadium is not like other fields. The playing surface is made up of squares of grass grown in trays on top of sand, peat, moss, and mesh wire. Each tray has a plastic-and-steel drainage base, and the individual turf pieces are stored in stacks and then transported to the field and assembled before games.
This system could lead to a lack of conformity in the field, as New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick complained after receiver We Welker tore his ACL and MCL on the field in 2010:
"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."
Ryans's lawsuit claims the field system "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," and blames the field for his career-ending Achilles injury.
Career Life Liability
Ryans claims he could've played another five years, if healthy, contending he would've earned around $10 million over that time. His lawsuit names the NFL, the Houston Texans, the stadium owner Harris County Convention & Sports Corporation, the stadium manager SMG, as well as StrathAyr Turf Systems Pty Ltd., the Australian company that made the turf.
Despite the litany of injuries caused by the StrathAyr turf, NRG Stadium kept the pallet installation system in place until this season, when it finally switched to UBU Sports Speed Series S5-M synthetic turf. Hopefully that will be a little safer to play on.
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