ESPN – In his first interview since suffering a severe spinal injury in early December, Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier said he plans to play football again. “I’ve gotta get back, bro,” Shazier said on teammate Roosevelt Nix’s podcast, which was posted to social media Tuesday night. Shazier touched on several topics in the podcast, including his desire to become a Pro Football Hall of Famer. Shazier, 25, underwent spinal stabilization surgery Dec. 6 after a tackling attempt on Monday Night Football in Cincinnati left him clutching his lower back.
I respect the hell out of the resolve and I hope that this is a ‘prove it to myself’ thing where Shazier can just get back on the field and then retire. What I don’t want to see is the guy who suffered one of the worst injuries we’ve ever seen in the NFL just jump right back in after nearly being paralyzed. I thought for sure Shazier was paralyzed watching him writhe around on the ground while his legs were motionless. Thats the kinda stuff that makes you watch football with one eye closed. Its tough to watch honestly. Now these guys all know what they’re getting into and they’re getting paid millions of dollars so I’m not gonna lose any sleep over it, but at some point you have to protect people from themselves. Thats why the NFL has concussion spotters now. Whats a few million dollars if you literally can’t walk?
Quotes from Shazier like this worry me though:
“I just have to be back out there so everybody can see it. You know what I’m saying?”
“[Shazier] posted a picture of himself standing with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He’s proud of that one. “People were thinking Ben was supporting me, too — he barely was even holding me.”
Is it hypocritical of me after having cheered on Tedy Bruschi coming back to the Patriots after suffering a goddamn stroke? Absolutely, but as athletes get bigger, faster, and stronger every year these injuries are going to become more prevalent not less. Thats why we’re seeing more and more players retire before the age of 30, including half of the 49ers last year.
Would I be bummed if Rob Gronkowski decides to trade in his football cleats for some spandex in the WWE? Of course, but I wouldn’t begrudge the guy. If you can make a bunch of money somewhere else without risking the car crash type injuries the NFL puts players through every week then you do you.
I can’t imagine how important it is for Shazier to prove that he can make it back to the NFL, especially for a guy that feels like he’s the absolute best player in the world at his position. I get that. Just don’t put blinders on and ignore the risks for the pursuit of glory on the gridiron.