FOXBOROUGH — New England Patriots linebacker Darius Fleming didn't hesitate when he saw a woman trapped in a smoking car: He kicked out the window, enabling her to escape.
But Fleming cut his right leg in the process, and he soon began to worry about how coach Bill Belichick would react.
"The first concern was, like, 'Man, Bill's going to be pissed about my leg,' " Fleming said in the Patriots locker room on Wednesday after word of his rescue filtered out. "I explained the story to him and he said, 'That was pretty cool. I'm glad you were able to help her."'
Fleming, 26, said he was on his way home from practice on Thursday when a truck up ahead slowed down to turn, causing a three-car collision behind it. The former Notre Dame and San Francisco 49er linebacker was behind the third car and pulled over to see if he could help.
What he saw was a woman unable to open her doors or windows as her car began to fill with smoke.
"I saw her panic on her face," Fleming told reporters.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Chicagoan needed a few kicks to break the passenger side window, cutting his right leg on the glass as he pulled it back out of the car. The woman climbed out safely.
"My adrenaline was going up and I wasn't thinking much about it. I was just thinking about whether she was safe," Fleming said. "Once I got her out of the car, she said 'Thank you,' I said 'You're welcome,' and I saw my leg and I got out of there."
Fleming, a fifth-round draft pick in 2012, needed 22 stitches to close the gash. He played with the injury Saturday in New England's 27-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, filling in when starters Jamie Collins and Jerod Mayo were injured.
"I was more worried about just getting out there and playing. I'm glad it didn't affect my play much," Fleming said. "The worst thing that could happen is that I would tear them (stitches) open and get re-stitched. It wasn't like it was a life-threatening injury or anything like that."
Patriots safety Devin McCourty said on Wednesday that Fleming tried to keep it quiet. "But once the guys on the team got ahold of it, we forced him to give a speech and everything," McCourty said, calling it "the hero's speech."
Roadside heroism is becoming a bit of a playoff tradition for the Patriots.
Last year, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork pulled a woman from a car that had flipped on its side after New England won the AFC championship game.
"We've got great guys around here, no matter the time — playoffs, regular season — we're always out in the community trying to save people," McCourty said with a laugh.
Like Wilfork before him, Fleming said he didn't think he did anything special.
"It represents his character," linebacker Rob Ninkovich said. "He's a great person. ... It's definitely somebody that you want in a situation like that, to kick in windows and taking stitches."