Ex-Steelers LB Ryan Shazier Recalls First Reaction to Damar Hamlin Collapse

Ryan Shazier

Getty Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier shared his initial reaction to the Damar Hamlin incident.

The NFL world received some positive news on Thursday, January 5 in regard to the “remarkable” but ongoing recovery of Buffalo Bills’ second-year safety Damar Hamlin. But Hamlin’s on-field medical emergency on January 2 initially left football fans deeply shaken.

Furthermore, the incident also unnerved current and former NFL players, including ex-Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier.

In 2017, Shazier suffered a life-changing injury, not only on Monday Night Football like Hamlin did, but also on the very same field in Cincinnati.

“I’m going to be honest, it was kind of scary to me but then also, me being in the situation where I was in a game, millions of people watching, a Monday Night game in Cincinnati, to me, it was almost surreal,” Shazier said in a video clip he released on Twitter on January 5. “My emotions were all over the place.

“I understand that Damar’s situation is completely different than mine, but to be in a situation, on a Monday night game, playing and just thinking that everything is going to be ok, and then now Damar is fighting for his life.”

Damar Hamlin Incident Reminded Ryan Shazier of His Own Life-Threatening Injury

In Week 13 of the 2017 season, Shazier lowered his helmet to make a tackle, which left the linebacker immobile on the field. His official diagnosis was a spinal contusion. He underwent surgery to stabilize the section of his spine that suffered the injury.

Today, Shazier is able to have a regular life. He walked across the stage at the 2018 NFL draft to announce the Steelers’ first-round pick. But the injury ended his football career.

On the same field also on a Monday night, Hamlin collapsed after making a tackle against Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. The Bills reported Hamlin suffered “a cardiac arrest” and had to have his heartbeat “restored on the field” through CPR.

Afterward, an ambulance transferred the Bills defender to the UC Medical Center “for further testing and treatment.”

Four days after the incident, Hamlin remains in critical condition on January 5, but there have been positive signs for Hamlin in his recovery.

“While there’s a long way to go, all signs are optimistic, highly optimistic, and point to what is likely to be a full neurologic recovery, and we’ve got to get there, but so far things have been very, very positive,” the NFLPA’s medical director Dr. Thom Mayer said. “When he woke up, which was much sooner than expected, his first question was, ‘Did we win the game?’”

There’s no timetable for Hamlin’s recovery. The 24-year-old still isn’t breathing on his own, which he will need to do before leaving the hospital. But Hamlin’s progress to this point has encouraged football fans everywhere.

Ryan Shazier Also Talked About Knowing Damar Hamlin Personally

The Hamlin incident shook NFL fans across the world, but it hit particularly hard in a few NFL cities.

Buffalo and Cincinnati were obviously two of them. The other was Pittsburgh, where Hamlin grew up and played collegiately at the University of Pittsburgh from 2016 to 2020.

Hamlin played at Pitt late in Shazier’s career with the Steelers. Still, Shazier shared that he has met Hamlin a few times and added that “it was really tough for me to watch” the Bills defender require CPR on the field because of the person he is.

“With me going through what I went through, it was really hard for me to watch that because Damar is a great guy,” Shazier said in his video clip on Twitter. “He’s a great human. I’ve met him a few times. I talked to him a few times while he was at Pitt. He’s from Pittsburgh, and it was really tough for me to watch.”

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who told reporters on January 3 that he’s known Hamlin since the Bills defender was 12 years old, also spoke about his relationship with Hamlin.

“It’s just an honor to get to know young people like that,” Tomlin said. “Had an opportunity to express that to him, whenever I see him.

“We’ve played Buffalo each of the last two seasons, and he and I get to have a moment because it’s just cool to not only appreciate these guys in terms of where they are now, but to know them since they were younger people and to watch their maturation and their development, to watch them, you know, earn what they’ve been chasing. It’s just really a cool thing. And he’s an example of that I got a lot of love for that young man.”

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