During a Dec. 4 “Monday Night Football” game between the Steelers and the Bengals, Shazier got hurt making a first-quarter tackle and had to be carted off the field. He underwent spinal stabilization surgery shortly thereafter and faces a lengthy period of rehabilitation, with his football career very much in doubt.
Shazier’s teammates, though, have insisted that they care far less about seeing him back on the field than simply back on his legs, walking. To that end, Shazier’s father offered hopeful, if not definitive, news.
When asked by Sylvester if he had seen his son walking, Vernon Shazier said that would remain “private” for the time being. However, to the question, “Do you think he’ll play again?” Shazier replied, “Yes, yes I do. I ‘Shalieve.’ ”
That was a reference to a phrase and hashtag the Shazier family has been using as an inspirational rallying cry for the 2016 Pro Bowler and his many supporters. Still, Vernon Shazier broke down in tears while telling WPXI about when he first heard from his son following the injury.
“He said, “Daddy, pray for me. I can’t feel my legs,’ ” Vernon Shazier, a Florida-based pastor, told the station while his voice filled with emotion.
The assistant coach, Todd Haley, was cagey Thursday in telling reporters that, whatever actually happened outside a Pittsburgh bar on New Year’s Eve, the Steelers had “made clear” to him that “it is a nonissue to both the team and the Steelers organization.’’ The incident to which he referred only as “a situation” gotten into by Haley and his wife reportedly involved being pushed down by an unidentified assailant, resulting in what was initially described as an injured hip for him.
However, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Thursday that a team source told him Haley suffered a “shattered” pelvis, as well as a badly bruised left side. Haley said that his injury would not affect his ability, as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, to help his team plan for the postseason, in which it is the AFC’s No. 2 seed and has a bye this week.
“My sole focus is on preparing for next week’s playoff game, so it won’t be addressed further,” Haley said of the New Year’s Eve incident, adding that it was “not of my doing.”
When the Steelers do take the field again, on Jan. 14, it will be in a home game very likely to be attended by Shazier, who returned to Heinz Field for the first time Dec. 17, during a game against the Patriots and earned a roar from fans while waving from a suite. Shazier has subsequently visited the team’s practice facility in a wheelchair, but the Steelers and his family have made few details public about the progress of his recovery.
Of his son’s devastating injury, Vernon Shazier told WPXI, “When your child is laying there in a situation like this, I was hoping and wishing I could switch positions with him. … When he went down, all of us went down with him.”
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