Injuries Around the NFL


Creative Commons

Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Wide Receiver Antonio Brown have been on fire this season, with Ben second only to Tom Brady in passing yards, and Brown leading all receivers by more than 200 yards. The loss of Shazier showed for the Steelers Sunday Night, as they narrowly escaped the Baltimore Ravens, winning 39-38.

Mark Labak, Assistant Sports Editor

Last Monday night, the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals was a friendly reminder to us all that an NFL player’s life can be changed in the blink of an eye. Audiences everywhere held their breath when standout Steelers middle linebacker Ryan Shazier went down early in the first quarter after a scary hit. Shazier led with his head when trying to make an otherwise routine tackle on Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone, and immediately crumpled to the ground. His lower body evidently went limp, and players huddled and prayed for the fourth year man out of Ohio State. Shazier has since been diagnosed with a spinal cord concussion, according to the Pittsburgh Post, which required surgery and has raised questions about him never being able to play football again. The Steelers have been shaken up since, and there’s a glaring hole in the middle of their defense where Shazier should be.

This scary injury was followed by a plethora of helmet-to-helmet hits throughout the game in which Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger nonchalantly referred to as, “just AFC North football.” A crunching block late in the game by Steelers rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, as well as some extracurricular activity by Smith-Schuster (standing over the clearly shaken up Burfict) earned him a personal foul, and a lengthy expression of discontent by ESPN Monday Night Football announcers Jon Gruden and Sean McDonough. Gruden called the hit and the taunting penalty “disgusting and disturbing” and McDonough commented that after everything that had happened to Shazier, he was appalled that Smith-Schuster would commit such an act.

A few plays later, Bengals safety George Iloka was flagged for a hit on a defenseless receiver after a helmet to helmet hit on Antonio Brown, who is regarded by many as the best in the league. Gruden again was clearly upset, saying he “hated seeing this type of football.” Iloka’s hit couldn’t help but draw parallels to a similar situation in a wild card matchup between these teams two seasons ago, in which Burfict was penalized for a cheap shot on Antonio Brown on a crucial play late in the game. The Steelers won that game and advanced to the next round of the playoffs, but Brown sat out due to a concussion from the hit. Recently, before last Monday’s game, Burfict commented on the matter, saying that Brown faked the injury. He claimed that Brown winked at him, and was smiling and laughing after the hit.

Injuries around the NFL have been no laughing matter, however, as stars from many teams have gone down for lengthy periods, and oftentimes the entire season. Packers future Hall of Fame QB Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone in a pivotal week 6 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, an injury that has stifled the usually dominant 4-1 Packers to a 7-6 record since the injury.

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. went down a week prior against the Los Angeles Chargers, and has since had season-ending surgery on his ankle. Faithful lifelong Giants fan Ian Babcock ‘19 had a lot to say about the injury to Odell, telling me “If we hadn’t lost all hope already, we did when [Beckham Jr.] went down. He’s clearly a top three receiver in the league and was already torching the Chargers in that game. Now [the Giants] are getting compared to the *Browns…”

*The Cleveland Browns are 0-13, hoping to finish stronger than last year’s season, in which they finished with one win and 15 losses.

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson underwent season-ending wrist surgery after leaving the game in the first week of the NFL season, disappointing fans and fantasy owners alike.

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman didn’t even make it to the regular season, tearing his ACL (a season-ending injury) in a preseason game against the Detroit Lions. When diehard Pats fan Scott Anneser ‘19 was asked what he thought about the Edelman injury, and he was rather optimistic; “It’s clear [Julian] going down affected our team because you can see sometimes [Tom Brady] is missing that reliable go-to guy, but we have so much depth it doesn’t matter.”

With so many devastating injuries to top contenders in the NFL, the narrative is often “What’s wrong with football?” To that question, Steelers safety Mike Mitchell voiced his opinion in a fiery rant to reporters last Wednesday, clearly angry about the talk of dangerous hits in the NFL; “He’s 4.4-4.3 speed. Aim that. You go do that. You can’t. It’s just the risk of playing football. If a ball is in the air and the man jumps and a man ducks his head, how do you want me to readjust my body? You cannot do it. At the end of the day this is foot-ball. If you want to see flag football, then let’s take our pads off. That would make it easier for me.” Max Mello ‘19 agrees with Mitchell; when asked about if football’s physical nature is too intense, he said “they’re grown men, and they’re paid to hit, so let them hit! They’re trained to get hit and give hits, so it’s stupid to limit the ability of your players even if it produces an injury from time to time. Accidents happen.”

Whether you agree with Mello or not, it’s clear that there’s a problem with serious injuries. Possible solutions such as inflated fines, harsher penalties, or even less football have been proposed, but nothing serious has been done by the league to decrease these brutal hits as they are slowly finding that with football, maybe there is no solution.