Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier had a scary injury in the Cincinnati Bengals game in Week 13 that forced him to go to the hospital and have spinal surgery last Wednesday night. He was at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center before being transferred to a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center facility where he remains for now.
The Steelers-Bengals game opened a lot of eyes to the excessive violence of the NFL and whether the game has a future with everything that has come out about CTE and head injuries.
For NFL players, the injury hit home as part of the game. Josh Norman talked about playing with threat of serious injury just days after the Shazier injury.
“When you go out there on the field, you ask for cover and you go to work,” Norman said. “If I see a play, shoot, I’m going to get it. Consequences be the consequences.”
His smile gave way to a wince as he peeled his sweaty practice jersey over his shoulders and head.
“This is what we signed up for,” Norman said. “If you don’t want to do it, don’t play. Ain’t nobody forcing you. It’s your right.”
“You know the risk you take when you step on the field each and every time,” Norman said. “That’s a play where he went at him, I think, with the crown of his head. They tell us not to tackle like that. . . . Prayers go out to him and his family and his recovery. It’s severe. . . . Hopefully everything will go well.”
Vernon Davis was also asked if he saw what happened.
“I know what happened. But as far as seeing it? Nah. When things like that happen, I try to stay out of it,” Davis said. “That can happen to me. It can happen to anyone, God forbid. I try to be more in prayer than focus on what actually happened.”
“When you enjoy something and you love it, it really doesn’t matter what could happen. It’s our joy. It’s our excitement. It’s what we do to get away from other things.”
Players know exactly what they are getting into when they get paid to pay professional football, but that doesn’t make it any less scary when a player suffers the injury that Shazier is going through. He had the love and support from players around the league, but it does make you wonder how much longer the game will continue to see violence like last Sunday night and not make drastic changes.
The Steelers played the Baltimore Ravens in an absolutely thrilling contest this Sunday night — one not marred by illegal hits — and Pittsburgh had a dramatic comeback win that sealed the AFC North for the third time in four seasons for the Steelers. After the game, the team Facetimed with Shazier, who was watching the game from his hospital bed.
Ryan Shazier celebrated the AFC North championship with his teammates from the hospital. (via mrs.shazier50 / Instagram) pic.twitter.com/pzfd4FE35u
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 11, 2017
Ryan Shazier and his family celebrate the Steelers win 🙏
(via shazier/Instagram) pic.twitter.com/yuq0lH5lV3
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) December 11, 2017
Coach Mike Tomlin on the after-game celebration, per NFL.com:
“A very emotional group in there. AFC North champs. We had Ryan Shazier on Facetime.He had an opportunity to share that moment with the team. That’s a special thing.”
According to ESPN.com, the Steelers dedicated the win to Shazier and presented him with a game ball.
“We love our brother, and we wanted to get this win for him, and I’m glad we did,” Ben Roethlisberger said.
“You give that guy the game ball because we know his heart is in it,” defensive end Cameron Heyward said. “And he deserves it.”
Roethlisberger also visited Shazier in the hospital and said his spirit motivated him and the rest of the team to keep pushing forward
“When you walk in and see him and see the smile and give him a hug, it’s really made all of us feel, just to kind of take that weight off and breathe a little easier.”
The latest update on Shazier’s condition is that he is improving. He is expected to remain in the hospital for an undisclosed amount of time and his season is obviously over. The prospects of him playing football again remain unclear.
Doctors are controlling and limiting his movement as they wait for the swelling and bruising in his back to subside, sources said.
It is premature to say whether Shazier will play football again, but the focus right now is not on his playing career but on trying to facilitate his recovery.
The Steelers have not updated his status since Thursday’s surgery announcement, but his season is over and the team says it is concerned solely about his short- and long-term health.
Since he returned to Pittsburgh, Shazier has received visits from Steelers owner Art Rooney and multiple teammates, sources said. Shazier’s family is also with him.
The injury has weighed heavily on the minds of his teammates, the organization and city. For Sunday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, at least 15 players will be wearing cleats honoring Shazier and his expression, “Shalieve.”
Corey Pane, a Hartford, Connecticut-based artist who paints cleats, reached out to Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree shortly after Shazier suffered the injury, and has painted cleats for several Pittsburgh players. Antonio Brown, Stephon Tuitt, Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt and Dupree said they plan to honor Shazier with cleats that bear his name or likeness.
“I just wanted to do something for Shazier to show him some support and send some good energy his way,” Pane said this weekend.
It is refreshing to see Shazier be in such good spirits when his career hangs in the balance. His recovery may be long and or painful, but it seems clear to anyone who has been around the guy that he is going to give everything he has to get back for his teammates.
Given the current state of NFL ratings, it’s not that difficult a concept to consider the NFL being drastically different in 20 years. There are generations of fans who grew up loving the game due to its violence, but that general mindset seems to be shifting, and the aforementioned studies of repeated trauma to the brain and how deadly the effects can be is at the forefront of that shift.
Here’s to hoping Ryan Shazier has a speedy and healthy recovery.