Ca­reer in limbo, Shazier help­ing in other ways

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page -

PITTS­BURGH — At least one por­tion of Ryan Shazier’s daily rou­tine hasn’t changed much from the pre­vi­ous time the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers were pre­par­ing to face Cincin­nati, even if the rest of the in­jured line­backer’s life is hardly the same.

Shazier still makes his way to the club’s prac­tice fa­cil­ity around 7 a.m. most days. Any team­mate will­ing to drop by Shazier’s usual spot can feel free to pull out a note­book and start jot­ting Shazier’s thoughts while he serves as both peer and pro­fes­sor.

“He’s just try­ing to find lit­tle nit­pick things,” Pitts­burgh rookie safety Ter­rell Ed­munds said.

It is Shazier’s way of stay­ing con­nected to the game even as he con­tin­ues his long and in­spir­ing re­cov­ery from that fright­en­ing mo­ment last De­cem­ber when the Pro Bowler low­ered his hel­met to hit Ben­gals wide re­ceiver Josh Malone late in the first quar­ter, a play that ended with Shazier clutch­ing his lower back in agony while play­ers knelt around him in prayer and Paul Brown Sta­dium feel eerily silent.

Ten months later, the sight of Shazier be­ing taken off the field on a stretcher be­fore be­ing placed in an am­bu­lance re­mains fresh as the Steel­ers (2-2-1) brace them­selves for their an­nual visit to Cincin­nati (4-1) on Sun­day.

“It was just a re­ally weird feel­ing af­ter that hap­pened,” Pitts­burgh line­backer L.J. Fort said. “You’d make a good play but no­body was re­ally jump­ing around or was ex­cited or any­thing like that, so it was re­ally sober­ing mo­ment and brought to the fore­front that foot­ball is not the most im­por­tant thing in life.”

Play­ing amid a mix­ture of fear for their friend and un­cer­tainty over Shazier’s sta­tus, the Steel­ers ral­lied for a 23-20 vic­tory.

Asked how they man­aged to re­cover emo­tion­ally in time to put Pitts­burgh Steel­ers wide re­ceiver An­to­nio Brown hugs Ryan Shazier be­fore a pre­sea­son game against the Green Bay Pack­ers. Ten months af­ter sus­tain­ing a spinal in­jury that threat­ened his ca­reer, the for­mer Ohio State line­backer is thriv­ing as a de facto coach.

to­gether a stir­ring rally, they’re still not sure. In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of Shazier’s in­jury there was only chaos and con­fu­sion.

Out­side line­backer Bud Dupree ad­mit­ted he and in­side line­backer Vince Wil­liams — two of Shazier’s clos­est friends

on the team — were un­der the im­pres­sion Shazier had been blind­sided by a mem­ber of the Ben­gals. The two spent the rest of the first half look­ing for re­venge.

“We were just walk­ing around try­ing (to hit) the first per­son we see,” Dupree said. “We weren’t

wor­ried about foot­ball. We wanted to take up for our brother.”

CHIEFS SIGN EX-BROWNS LB OR­CHARD: Nate Or­chard has gone from a highly drafted pick of the Cleve­land Browns to a fea­tured star on HBO’s doc­u­men­tary se­ries “Hard Knocks” to the couch as an un­em­ployed line­backer in the NFL. Now, he’s suit­ing up for a team with Su­per Bowl as­pi­ra­tions. Or­chard signed with the Kan­sas City Chiefs on Wed­nes­day to shore up their pass rush be­sieged by in­juries. Justin Hous­ton could miss sev­eral weeks af­ter hurt­ing his ham­string in last Sun­day’s win over Jack­sonville while Dee Ford and Tanoh Kpas­sagnon have been deal­ing with nag­ging in­juries.

‘SMALL CHANCE’ JETS’ RODGERS RE­TURNS SUN­DAY: New York Jets de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Kacy Rodgers briefly re­turned to the team’s fa­cil­ity, and coach Todd Bowles says there’s a “small chance” he coaches against the In­di­anapo­lis Colts on Sun­day. Rodgers is deal­ing with what Bowles char­ac­ter­ized last week as a “se­ri­ous” ill­ness. The 49-year-old as­sis­tant coach wasn’t with the team last Sun­day for its 34-16 win over Den­ver.

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