Rodney Harrison was one of the NFL’s fiercest hitting safeties during his 15-year career. If anyone understands the physical nature of the game, it’s him.
That’s why it was startling to hear his initial reaction to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier’s injury on Monday night.
“It was a very scary moment, because as a parent when I watched it, I was very emotional. I looked at my wife and I told my wife, there’s no way I’m going to let my two sons, 10 years old and 13 years old, play football,” Harrison said during the “Thursday Night Football” halftime show. “I just felt like it was too dangerous at that point.”
Many parents around the country probably had the same reaction. Very few of them played in the NFL, and played as long as Harrison did. Shazier couldn’t move his legs on the field and was carted off and taken to a hospital. He had spinal stabilization surgery on Wednesday night.
Harrison continued to discuss the Shazier injury and said he found another reason it happened.
“Then the player’s side kicked in and coach [Tony Dungy, Harrison’s fellow NBC analyst], what I started focusing on was the technique,” Harrison said. “I think this could be a learning lesson to anybody playing football on any level. When you hit, when you tackle, you must tackle with your head up, use your shoulders and wrap your arms.”
Even so, the injury shook up pretty much everyone who watched it. Harrison gave an honest answer when he was asked about the Steelers’ game this week against the Baltimore Ravens, which will be another physical game, and if he could go out and play without having Shazier’s injury on his mind.
“It would be very tough, to see one of the guys, one of your brothers laying on that ground and he’s not able to move … it would be very scary to go back on that football field,” Harrison said.
Those words carry more weight when they come from someone like Harrison. To hear him say on NBC to millions of football fans that his initial thought was that he wouldn’t let his sons play is not what the NFL wants to hear. The health concerns surrounding the game have become a major issue all the way down to youth football and its participation numbers. Shazier’s injury has become a huge story, and while Harrison made fair points about proper technique, all people will remember is that scary image from the game.
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