Back in 2005, my third season of managing what was then Ravens247.com, I attended an afternoon training camp session at McDaniel College. It was a typical hot and hazy summer afternoon, and the team took a break from the offense v. defense scrimmaging. Gary Zauner’s special teams group took the field.
As I so often did back in those days when Brian Billick allowed it (John Harbaugh does not), I took a knee upon a towel so as not to obstruct the view of fans behind me. Then, the media was allowed to position themselves about 5 yards outside of the field of play, marked by a broken golden line that ran parallel to the sideline.
The punt team took the field and the focus was upon the gunners who attempted to fight throw double-teams. Roderick Green was impressive.
Green was a chiseled 6’2” and 260 pounds and for a man of his size, he could really run.
As I knelt and observed, I dropped my head towards my camp notes just as Green sped by, left to right. A second later the page in my notebook flipped to the right, moved by the downdraft of this massive man running down the field at top speed after he fought through two players trying to prevent his advance.
I thought about that moment last night while watching the Steelers at the Bengals.
That was a brutally physical game, much like the 2008 AFC Championship Game between the Ravens and Steelers.
The players today are so big, strong and fast. There’s a reason they are among the world’s best at their craft. And I wondered what it would feel like to run into one of them. I thought that it might not be any different than running into a parked pickup truck at full speed.
Last night we saw Ryan Shazier carted off the field upon a stretcher.
Today we hope and pray for his full recovery, not as a player, but as a man. The player concern takes a back seat.
Who can blame the players if they seek as much compensation as possible while the owners reel in billions. Sure, it’s a career they’ve chosen, but in many cases these men aren’t capable of making anywhere near the kind of money that they can make as players in the NFL – assuming they can stay healthy.
As we witnessed last night, health is hardly a given. In can be snatched away in a blink of an eye.
In some cases, they are one play away from not drawing another paycheck.
I’ll never forget that summer day in 2005.
Get well Ryan…