FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — New England Patriots linebacker Darius Fleming confirmed Wednesday that he rescued a woman from a smoking car last week and played with 22 stitches in his leg in Saturday’s divisional playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fleming said he was injured when he kicked in a window to pull the woman out of the smoking car about a mile from Gillette Stadium two days before the game.
Fleming’s agent also confirmed the story after the fourth-year player’s alma mater, St. Rita High School in Chicago, posted about the incident on Facebook.
The 26-year-old Fleming drew a large media crowd in the locker room Wednesday.
Fleming described the incident occurring when a semi-truck made an unexpected right turn on Route 1 while he was driving away from Gillette Stadium, which he said led to three cars colliding in front of his vehicle.
Walpole police confirmed that a three-car incident took place last Thursday afternoon and that two of the cars had to be towed from the scene, but there were no injuries reported.
“I was about to go around it, but I noticed the lady in front of me, she kind of was jumping around the car, passenger seat, back seat, and I noticed smoke building up inside the car,” Fleming told reporters Wednesday. “I tried to open the doors, and it wouldn’t work. So then I was just like, ‘I have to get her out of here. I don’t know if this lady can breathe or what.’
“I started banging on the window. It wouldn’t break. So then I started to kick in the window and eventually it broke,” he said.
Fleming said it took three kicks of the window before it eventually gave way and he pulled the woman out of the car to safety.
“Then I noticed my leg was bleeding pretty bad, so I figured I should get out of there,” Fleming said. “I came back [to the team facility], got it bandaged up, and then went to the hospital.”
Fleming said doctors had to remove a fragment of glass from his leg.
Walpole police added that “there was no fire involved in this crash. However, there was air bag deployment, which to the untrained eye can appear as if the vehicle is enveloped in smoke.”
An officer at the scene said “the operator of that vehicle did make statements to one officer that a male party ‘kicked in my window, I think he was a Patriot.’ This was not entered into the report as this was a standard motor vehicle crash report with no injury.”
In a statement, Walpole police said, “On arrival, the individual in question was not on scene and due to the nature of the accident there was no follow-up to this information as the identity to an unknown good Samaritan had no bearing on this report. We are attempting to obtain more information at this time and will follow up with another release should we learn more.”
The woman who was in the car called police to offer more details on the incident.
“She said that due to the nature of the accident, her vehicle lost power and she could not get out. At that time, a male who she believed to be a Patriot, approached the passenger side and indicated to her that he would kick in the passenger side window, which he did. She then crawled over to the passenger side and the unknown male assisted her in climbing out of the window.
“She said she did not recognize the player and did not realize that he was hurt at the time. She said that she would like to remain anonymous but that she would like to express her thanks to the individual who came to her aid.”
Fleming’s primary contributions in Saturday’s 27-20 win came on special teams, where he played 16 snaps between the punt coverage, kickoff coverage, kickoff return and punt return units, recording one tackle. He also filled in for 10 defensive snaps late in the game when linebackers Jamie Collins (back) and Jerod Mayo (shoulder) left with injuries, adding a tackle on defense.
During Wednesday’s practice, Fleming was listed as a limited participant with back and shin injuries.
“I didn’t think about it too much,” Fleming said. “You’ve got stitches on your leg, so it’s in the back of your mind, but I was just excited to be able to play. Because the first thing that came into my mind was, ‘Damn, my leg is pretty cut up today,’ and I wasn’t sure how it would affect me and how it would affect my game. But I was fine.”
New England defensive captain Devin McCourty said the Patriots cheered Fleming for his actions.
“We got the hero’s speech. He gave us his account of what happened and a lot of cheers went out,” McCourty said.