There was a frightening moment on “Monday Night Football” as Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier left the game in an ambulance after a hit on the field that left him apparently unable to move his legs.
The team released a statement later saying he will “not require surgery at this time, and he continues to improve.” A Steelers source told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it’s “better than what it could have been.”
“They told us it was encouraging,” offensive lineman Ramon Foster told the newspaper.
“I was 10 feet away, and immediately you could see that he could not move the lower half of his body,” ESPN analyst and former 49ers quarterback Steve Young said at halftime.
Shazier had been trying to tackle Cincinnati Bengals receiver Josh Malone early in the game when he went down after his head and neck struck Malone’s thigh.
Video shows Shazier on the field, grabbing his back and then rolling over with great effort.
He was able to move his arms, but there was little to no movement in his legs.
Former Chargers team doctor David Chao said there was “real worry” over the injury.
He wrote for the San Diego Union Tribune:
“My concern is with how Shazier went limp, including (temporarily) his arm. It is extremely worrisome how his legs, especially the left leg, flopped as he turned over. He did not sit up to help extricate his left arm from being trapped behind his back.”
“The worry is for thoracolumbar compression or burst fracture, which could affect his spinal cord/nerves,” he said, adding, “I really hope I am wrong.”
Later in the game, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was carted off the field after taking a hit from Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Burfict jumped off the cart before it reached the locker room, according to Cincinnati.com.
Two flags were thrown on the play: One for helmet-to-helmet contact, and one for taunting. NBC’s ProFootballTalk speculated that Smith may get suspended over the hit.
This story has been updated with additional information.