Image Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has sent a letter to the Washington Football Team and the NFL asking what follow-up action would be taken after Sunday’s railing collapse at FedEx Field.
“I tried to handle the situation with a lot of poise and show compassion for the people that fell down, really, but I know it could have been so much worse,” Hurts said Tuesday. “It kind of didn’t hit me until after the fact, having some time to reflect on it and think about it. I just wanted to see what could be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s all I really care about.”
A railing on the side of the tunnel leading to the visiting locker room at FedEx Field collapsed just as Hurts was exiting after Philadelphia’s 20-16 win. Multiple videos show a group of about eight fans falling approximately 6 feet to the ground.
Hurts sidestepped the falling fans and wasn’t hit. He helped one individual up and asked several of them if they were OK while posing for pictures.
According to a team spokesperson, WFT president Jason Wright “received the letter and sent a private email in reply. He looks forward to talking to Jalen. Additionally, we’re working to ensure this does not happen again.”
The NFL also released a statement later Tuesday.
“We appreciate Jalen’s concerns and have been reviewing the incident with the Washington Football Team,” NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy said.
Washington released a statement Sunday evening, reading in part: “To our knowledge, everyone involved was offered on-site medical evaluation and left the stadium of their own accord.”
However, four individuals who fell as a result of the railing collapse — all of whom say they suffered injuries from the incident, most of them minor — rebutted the suggestion that they were offered on-site medical evaluation.
“The only thing the staff said to us was to get the F off the field,” said Andrew Collins, 26, of Brooklawn, New Jersey.
In his letter, Hurts asked, “What follow-up action is being considered in response to the near-tragic incident that took place at FedEx Field on January 2, 2022.
“Through the initial shock, my first reaction was to assist those involved. However, while I displayed a calm composure, I understand the severity of what happened and am extremely concerned for the well-being of the fans and media. As a result, I would like to know what safeguards the NFL and the Washington Football Team are implementing to prevent this from ever occurring in the future.”
Mike Naimoli, a 26-year-old from Sicklerville, New Jersey, said he began experiencing neck and arm pain, as well as a tingling sensation in the hand that he said got trapped underneath the barricade, shortly after the incident. He went to the Inspira Medical Center in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, on Sunday evening to get checked out and was fitted with a neck brace as he waited in the emergency room, he said. When he was discharged after 5:30 a.m. ET Monday, he was diagnosed with a cervical strain and a head injury along with elbow and knee contusions, documents show.
Collins said he was experiencing lower back pain and a pulled groin on Monday, while his girlfriend, 22-year-old Marissa Santarlasci, and Naimoli’s fiancée, 24-year-old Morgan French, said they suffered substantial leg bruising.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Prince George’s County emergency medical services personnel were on the scene within five minutes and began treating those who needed medical attention, including one media member who had been carted off and another fan. The source said they weren’t aware of anyone else needing medical attention at that time.
One Washington team official said the area where the fans congregated was for people with disabilities and was designed for wheelchair access and that the railing is not load-bearing and is therefore not designed to withstand hundreds of pounds leaning into it. Members of the group contend, however, that they were granted access to the area by a member of stadium security and that there was no signage indicating it was a restricted area.
“I was at the front of the railing, and I felt pressure as soon as we went down there. Me and Andrew were like, ‘This thing is going to collapse,'” Santarlasci said. “More and more people kept piling in … and as soon as Hurts came by, obviously it collapsed. I fell down. And as I was getting up, I was trying to get my foot out of the railing because it was still caught, and the people at FedEx, they were just ripping up the railing as my foot was still caught in it.
“They didn’t even ask, ‘Are you OK? Do you need help?’ Nothing. They just went about their day. Hurts was actually the one asking, ‘Are you guys OK?’ It was crazy.”
After narrowly avoiding being hit by the collapse, Hurts picked one fan up off the ground who appeared to have hit his head then posed for pictures, before giving his game gloves to another fan who had fallen right in front of him.
“The resources of the NFL and team organizations ensure our safety through playing this physical sport,” Hurts wrote, “but what happened Sunday put both fans and players unnecessarily at risk long after the final whistle. I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.”