FOXBOROUGH — Heroes don't always wear capes — sometimes they wear football uniforms.
Patriots backup linebacker Darius Fleming played in Saturday's playoff victory over the Chiefs with 22 stitches in his right calf, two days after cutting his leg after he kicked out the window of a car to assist a woman who had just gotten into a three-car accident on Route 1, near Gillette Stadium.
"Obviously he had no regards for himself. Just wanted to get the girl out," said eyewitness Stephanie Kube. "Came in, saved the day and left. A true hero."
Fleming, a fourth-year pro who signed with the Patriots in late November, said the accident occurred on Thursday afternoon as he was driving home from practice. Fleming believed the woman's car was on fire, but Walpole police on Wednesday said there was no fire, that the dust from the car's airbag may have appeared to be like smoke.
The woman, a 25-year-old Newton resident who asked that her name not be used, said her airbags deployed during the accident, and she tried to open her car doors, but they were stuck.
At some point, Fleming appeared "from the right side and signaled to me he would kick in the window,'' she said Wednesday night during a brief interview at her residence.
She said she climbed through the passenger side window after it shattered, and Fleming extended a hand to help her exit.
He then told her to move away from the smoking vehicle, the woman said, and he offered to stay with her until police arrived, though she told him that wasn't necessary.
"I obviously thanked him," she said. "I was appreciative that he did this. I had no idea that he suffered an injury. That's terrible that he did."
She said she assumed Fleming was a Patriot, since he wore team attire and had an athletic build, and the crash occurred near Gillette.
"He obviously should be recognized," the woman said, adding she was anxious to exit the vehicle for her own safety. "He's a hero. I'm obviously just really grateful."
The woman said she is a Patriots fan.
"Let's hope the stitches don't come out," she said.
An incident report obtained by the Globe Wednesday night confirmed that a three-accident occurred on Route 1, and that no injuries were reported.
"It was a little freaky, but anyone in that situation would've done the same thing," said Fleming, who had two tackles in 26 total snaps in Saturday's win. "It's just, I was there. I'm glad I could help her.
"She was attempting to kick the window out, but she was a small lady. I didn't panic, but I was just like, 'I got to get her out.'
"I tried to break [the window] with my elbow, but that didn't work, so I just started kicking the window. Eventually it broke, pulled her out, made sure she was OK, and I looked at my leg and I noticed it was bleeding pretty bad."
Once other on-lookers reached the scene, Fleming left to get treatment for two cuts on his calf. The Patriots trainers patched him up at Gillette, then he went to a local hospital for stitches.
"I didn't think much of it at first, but then I realized I had glass in my leg," said Fleming, who wore a bandage around his stitches as he prepared for Wednesday's practice. "She did a great job of stitching me up. I thought I'd rip a couple, but she did a good job."
Kube said the accident occurred right in front of her business — Veterinary Neurology and Pain Management Center of New England, across from the Red Wing Diner on Route 1. Kube said the woman was visibly shaken, but otherwise OK.
Kube and several of her staffers went outside to tend to those involved in the car accident until the police arrived.
"We were all discussing that it seems that he incurred the most injuries from the car accident, and he wasn't really even involved," Kube said.
Two days later, Fleming was forced into action when Patriots linebackers Jamie Collins and Jerod Mayo left Saturday's game with injuries. Fleming had one tackle in 10 snaps on defense and one tackle on 16 special teams snaps.
"Got to be ready at all times," Fleming said. "I was able to go in there and help out a little bit."
Dr. David Chao,
"The location and the depth of the sutures is much more important than the number involved," Chao said. "Needing deeper sutures might affect play, but with proper care, one can play with skin lacerations."
Fleming's heroics came almost exactly a year following similar heroics from former Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who had helped remove a 38-year-old woman from an overturned Jeep Wrangler on Route 1 at 12:45 am last Jan. 18 as he left Gillette Stadium following the Patriots' playoff win over the Colts.