The Steelers linebacker admitted that he’s not sure how defensive players in the NFL are going to adjust to the rule that was inspired after his head-down hit against the Bengals which left him temporarily paralyzed.
“Honestly I have been playing football when I was 4, so some of the hits that I did were some of the same ones I’ve had since I was 10 years old,” Shazier said during his first press conference since the injury. “So it’s kind of hard when they are trying to tell you to avoid hitting a certain way because at the end of the day, a lot of people who are playing this game have been probably playing it since before they could really speak full sentences, and honestly it’s a little hard.
“But you just have to start playing the way they want you to play, start tackling more with your shoulders, I guess, and just to completely avoid people’s upper half. At the end of the day it’s kind of hard if somebody is coming at you a certain way – but you have just go play the way they want you to.”
As he noted, that kind of fundamental change in tackling is going to take time to implement, but this year’s rule change to prohibit lowering the head to initiate contact is at least a step in the right direction.
And despite the fact he’s walking with a cane now, Shazier made it clear that he hoped to return to the field someday. Asked why, and he became a commercial for the game.
“Because I’ve played the game since I was 4 years old, I’ve loved the game since I was 4 years old,” he said. “Just because I got hurt doesn’t mean I’m going to stop loving football.
“When you give your best at anything you do, I feel it makes it a little easier when something happens to you because you never have to look back and regret that you didn’t go hard enough.
“I feel like I gave everything I had, I got hurt and I’m still going to give everything I have to come back.”
Perhaps if he had been taught to play another way when he was 4, his current situation could have been avoided. And while the NFL’s rule change is a top-down solution for the sport, it’s hard to imagine any player who sees Shazier now not realizing the risks of leading with your head.