It probably wasn’t too long after he suffered a severe spinal injury on the field in early December that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier began to seriously think about returning to the field, no matter how long it took. He first confirmed that desire while speaking to teammate Roosevelt Nix on the fullback’s podcast.
As we talked about yesterday, Shazier addressed reporters for the very first time since his injury yesterday and he reaffirmed his desire, and his intention, to work toward getting back to the field, even if he has conceded that it will not happen this year. For the moment, his goal is just to be able to walk around more without assistance by the regular season.
Whether it’s 2019 or 2020 or even beyond, however, he doesn’t appear likely to give up the dream of getting back to the game he loves until it’s completely inescapable that he won’t be able to. Part of that dream is a lack of concern about returning to the game.
“Me personally, I don’t really have a fear of it”, he told a reporter when he was asked about whether or not he worried about injuring himself even work if he tried to play again. “I think everybody, when they’re playing any type of sport, you have to first get out there and get it going, start moving, have your first hit, and then you come back down and get back to yourself. I think that’s all it is to me”.
I do have a hard time imagining that it would be that simple, and like many I wonder, assuming he is even able to return to the field, what sort of risk of recurrence he faces, but to be fair, I have no idea what his doctors are telling him in that regard—and I’m certainly not a doctor myself.
“Once I get back out there again and start playing with guys, I just have to probably play a little safer. Just got to put my head up or something”, he did allow. “Other than that, I’ll honestly follow whatever outcome comes with it, and I’ll just trust in the Lord. I feel like if he gives me the opportunity to play again, I’m going to go out there and give it everything I have”.
As for the fact that the hit that injured him would essentially be a penalty if he were to have made it today, he had thoughts on that as well, and like many wondered how players today could be expected to adapt. “Some of the hits I had were some of the hits I did when I was 10 years old”, he said. “It’s kind of hard, they’re trying to tell you to avoid hitting a certain way because a lot of people that are playing have been playing since probably before they could really speak full sentences”.
Still, he ultimately conceded that there is but one solution. “You’ve just got to start playing the way they want you to, tackling more with your shoulders I guess, and just try to completely avoid people’s upper half”. He should also remember that offensive players will equally be subject to penalties and fines for lowering their helmet to initiate contact.