Shazier released from hospital after injury
Injured Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier is going home.
Shazier was released from the hospital on Thursday, nearly two months after suffering a spinal injury in a victory over Cincinnati. The Pro Bowler underwent spine stabilization on Dec. 6 and while he was able to travel a bit, including visiting team practices and making appearances at Heinz Field for games, he returned to the hospital each evening.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says Shazier will transition to an outpatient therapy program.
The 25-year-old Shazier posted a picture on Instagram of him standing alongside Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shortly after his discharge was announced. Shazier has his left arm draped over Roethlisberger’s shoulders and his right hand on something for support. Shazier thanked everyone from family to teammates to doctors to fans for their support and said he will “continue to work hard and push and find a way back.”
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Gronkowski cleared to play in Super Bowl
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been cleared from the concussion protocol and will play in Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Gronkowski participated fully in practice on Thursday. Defensive lineman Deatrich Wise also practiced after being cleared from the concussion protocol. Malcolm Butler (illness) and Brandon King (knee) also participated in the workout.
Gronk said he is “ready to roll” and has no limitations. He had been sidelined since taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jacksonville’s Barry Church in the first half of New England’s AFC championship game win.
The All-Pro tight end missed last year’s Super Bowl win over Atlanta after undergoing back surgery.
Gronkowski said he believes that the team doctors were just using the bye week to be as cautious with the injury as possible.
“We knew the whole time I was gonna be good to go,” he said. “I was progressing really good throughout the week. We just knew I’d be ready and we’ve been practicing like we always do.”
Gronkowski led the team in receiving during the regular season with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.
His return gives quarterback Tom Brady another key option against an Eagles defense that finished the regular season ranked fourth in the NFL in defense.
Philadelphia is giving up 229 yards per game through the air in the playoffs. New England comes in averaging 318 yards passing during the postseason.
“He’s a dynamic player. He means a ton to our offense. He really has since he got to our team. It’s always great when he’s out there,” Brady said.
“I’ve played with him a long time, I’ve thrown him a lot of footballs. He knows exactly what to do, he knows where to expect the ball, when to expect it. He’s just a tremendous player for our team.”
Eagles DT Jernigan misses practice again
Philadelphia Eagles starting defensive tackle Tim Jernigan missed his second straight practice Thursday because of an illness.
Coach Doug Pederson said he expects Jernigan to play against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday, even if he doesn’t practice the rest of the week.
“Because of the position and he’s one of our veteran guys, I do feel comfortable that he’ll be ready,” Pederson said in a pool report.
Three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (calf), starting cornerback Ronald Darby (illness) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) all practiced.
Pederson’s former coach in Green Bay, Mike Holmgren, watched practice.
“It’s fun to have him out there,” Pederson said.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Rodgers wants to play as long as Tom Brady
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers says he wants to play into his 40s like Tom Brady, but he might have to leave Green Bay to do that.
The 34-year-old acknowledged that he may have to play for another team like Brett Favre did at the end of his Hall-of-Fame career.
Rodgers said he doesn’t think Favre ever fathomed leaving Green Bay before the Packers dealt him in 2008 to the Jets to make room for Rodgers. Favre finished his career in Minnesota.
Rodgers told The Associated Press: “I think you have to be humble enough to realize if it could happen to Brett, it can happen to you.”