Jalen Hurts sidestepped disaster on Sunday when a railing came crashing down, followed by the fans who had been pressed against it hoping to high-five the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback as he entered the tunnel to the locker room at FedEx Field.
Seemingly unfazed during the incident, the former Alabama standout helped a fan to his feet, draped his arms across the shoulders of others, posed for photos and asked the fallen if they were OK.
“I tried to handle the situation with a lot of poise and show compassion for the people that fell down, really,” Hurts said during his Tuesday press conference, “but I know it could have been so much worse. 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.”
Toward that end, Hurts has written a letter to the NFL and the Washington Football Team.
“I am writing to inquire about what follow-up action is being considered in response to the near-tragic incident that took place at FedEx Field on Jan. 2, 2022,” reads Hurts’ letter. “As you are aware, many individuals, including fans, media personnel and myself, were placed in a dangerous situation when portions of the FedEx Field tunnel collapsed. Although I was able to prevent the barrier from crashing onto me, that was not the same for others who could be suffering from lingering injuries.
“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.
“The resources of the NFL and team organizations ensure our safety through playing this physical sport, but what happened on Sunday put both fans and players unnecessarily at risk long after the final whistle. I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.”
The Philadelphia fans were pressing to get close to Hurts as he came off the field after the Eagles’ fourth consecutive win. Philadelphia’s 20-16 victory over Washington on Sunday clinched a playoff berth for the Eagles with one game left in the 2021 regular season.
Philadelphia will play on the road on the first weekend of the NFL playoffs as one of the NFC’s three wild-card teams. Whether the Eagles are the No. 6 or No. 7 seed will be determined largely by what happens in other games, not by how Philadelphia fares in its finale against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night.
That’s led to speculation that Hurts might get the game off.
“I love football,” Hurts said on Tuesday when asked about sitting out against Dallas, “and I’m preparing as if it’s business as usual.”
While only one NFC playoff slot is unfilled, nine postseason configurations remain possible for the conference heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Philadelphia has two possibilities to wind up as the No. 6 seed, which would match the Eagles against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round.
If the Los Angeles Rams beat the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints beat the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, the Saints would be the No. 7 seed and push the Eagles to No. 6.
If the Eagles, Rams and Falcons win, Philadelphia goes in at No. 6 and the 49ers slip in at No. 7.
Otherwise, Philadelphia will be the No. 7 team. Its first-round opponent could be the Bucs, Rams, Cowboys or Arizona Cardinals, depending on what happens this weekend.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.