Seahawks tight end Nick Vannett was a college teammate of Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier and said seeing him potentially seriously injured Sunday was 'devastating to watch.'
Even for NFL football players, who are exposed daily to the risks of the sport at the highest level possible, Monday night’s Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game was a brutal dose of reality.
A penalty- and incident-filled game that some called one of the darker moments in recent NFL history included as scary of a moment as is imaginable — Pittsburgh middle linebacker Ryan Shazier carted off the field and later hospitalized with a spinal injury that left him without feeling in his legs.
Shazier is still recovering and it has not been definitively stated yet if he will regain full motion.
One Seahawk who took it especially hard is second-year tight end Nick Vannett, who played with Shazier at Ohio State. Each were members of the school’s 2011 recruiting class and Vannett – who grew up in Columbus — said Shazier was among a group of teammates who often came to his house on Sunday for dinner.
Vannett said he had not reached out to Shazier yet and said he is hopeful that Shazier will make a full recovery and be able to play again someday.
But he said as he saw the injury happen live on Monday night — which he said was “devastating to watch” — he said it inevitably made him question his chosen profession.
“It makes you wonder why we do what we do,’’ Vannett said. “I don’t know, man. It’s crazy.’’
Asked if seeing the injury gives him any pause about playing, Vannett said “yeah that’s just one the things that’s so crazy about this sport. It’s so dangerous and anything like that can happen. But I don’t know, you know? I don’t even know how to answer that, honestly, just because it’s so rare that that happens. But it can happen and it just puts it in perspective a little bit.’’
Vannett called Shazier a “relentless’’ player and said he has “a ton of respect for him. … hopefully he can come back soon and can get back on the field gain and hopefully he’s not too traumatized from it. I couldn’t imagine what would run through my mind if that happened to me.’’
Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin Tweeted after the injury “Football is NOT a contact sport. Ballroom dancing is a contact sport. Football is a violent collision sport. Hate to see all these injuries.’’
Wednesday, he called the game “hard to watch.’’
“I’ve been in the league for seven years now and so I’ve played with a lot of those guys, know a lot of those guys personally,’’ he said. “And so when you see things like that happen, it’s more than just the aspect of it’s entertainment or it’s a football game. These guys have lives, they are human beings, and to see a guy, when the linebacker got hit and you could see his legs weren’t moving, that goes in the back of my mind. As I’ve gotten older in the league more things become a priority, other things become important. So you start to think about kids and family and the future and you can’t help but feel for that guy. So yeah it was difficult to watch. But of course that’s just the nature of the sport.’’
The game has spurred some discussion of whether the league should institute a targeting rule similar to that used in the NCAA in which players could be ejected for the game they are in and maybe a half of the following game.
Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said instituting a targeting rule would be “terrible.’’
“You watch college games and they are kicking players out for clean hits because they can’t tell what’s a clean hit from certain angles,’’ Wagner said. “So I would rather that rule stay in college than come up here and stat messing up our game.’’
Wagner said he is sympathetic to the idea that the NFL is trying to increase player safety, especially in the wake of the Shazier injury, but he said “I just think there is a better way than bringing in that rule.’’
Wagner said the incident is a good reminder of a fundamental lesson of football — to keep your head up and use your shoulders to tackle. The Seahawks have been a leading proponent of teaching rugby style tackling and Wagner said that has helped. “I try to never use my head,’’ Wagner said.
If Wagner was defiant that such injuries shouldn’t change the game, Baldwin was reflective about the lesson it imparts.
Asked if he would recommend a family member playing football, Baldwin hesitated and then said “I would recommend that, yeah. I do. I mean I think sports are vitally important to the health of our society. Football has taught me more about life than anything else that I’ve ever experienced. So would I suggest to a parent or a family member to play it? Yes. But I would say going in to know there are inherent risks that come with it and be prepared to deal with those.’’