While it may be a bit of old news at this point—then again, there’s not going to be a whole lot to talk about anyway over the next month or so—I wanted to circle back to Adam Schefter’s report about the status of Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier.
On Sunday, Schefter, who has a reputation for being the most well-connected sports writer in the business, used his pool of sources to provide a ‘scoop’ on Shazier’s status. The four-year veteran suffered a severe spinal injury late in the season and lost movement in his legs.
He was recently discharged from the hospital, where he remained for months, having now moved on to out-patient rehabilitation treatment. He posed for a photo with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was helping him to stand, while he was also leaning on another object for support.
Schefter’s report said that “one source familiar with Shazier’s recovery” described him as “making incredible progress”. He wrote that the linebacker “has regained movement in his legs and is engaging in a regular walking routine, according to sources”.
Schefter should have known better that this does not provide enough clarity, though in truth he probably did not fully understand himself. While the ESPN writer did not ever explicitly say that Shazier had regained the ability to walk without aid, many inferred that, or something in that vein, because of the ambiguous nature of his article.
And it is precisely because of something like this that Shazier had prior to this point been diligent in attempting to control the story of his recovery. Or at least, this was one of the reasons that he wanted to be the author of his own rehabilitation process. And he is certainly entitled to that.
NBC’s Michele Tafoya had to provide further clarification later on in the day, having spoken with an individual on Shazier’s behalf, who “wants to clarify the report”. Whoever it was that Schefter spoke with presumably violated Shazier’s wishes, if not trust, by giving out the information that was provided, and I doubt that “incredible progress” would be a term coming out of his mouth.
“Although he does have movement in his legs, he is not walking on his own”, Tafoya provided in a typed image via Twitter. “Shazier needs assistance from a walker or other people to support him in his rehabilitation walking, with remains a struggle”.
The issuance of this second report—which Shazier endorsed via Twitter as well—was likely one that he did not want to have to make. If he wanted a report to come out, he would have seen to it that one was released through some approved venue.
Instead, we had Schefter providing people with false hopes, even if unintentional, because he wanted the story. It didn’t help that subsequent outlets—including ESPN itself, ran with headlines indicating that he “is walking”. While Ol’ Schefty was simply ‘doing his job’, as they say, this is not Shazier wanted, and it is a shame that it developed in this manner. Hopefully this is the final unsanctioned update on his behalf.