Midway through the first quarter of the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals Monday Night Football game on January 2, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was hit during a play, suffered cardiac arrest, and collapsed on the field. As of Tuesday afternoon, Hamlin remained hospitalized in Cincinnati in critical condition.
Hamlin received medical attention, including CPR, on the field for roughly ten minutes. The severity of Hamlin’s injury was immediately apparent: ESPN cameras cut to visibly shaken and emotional shots of Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, and Stefon Diggs, among others.
Early Tuesday morning, the Bills issued a statement about Hamlin’s condition, writing, “Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit in the Buffalo Bills’ game versus the Cincinnati Bengals. His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for further testing and treatment. He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.” Additionally, the Bills thanked fans for their support.
Hamlin, 24, was selected by Buffalo in the sixth round of the 2021 draft. He played sparingly as a rookie, but had made 13 starts this season, filling in for injured star safety Micah Hyde. The sports world was quick to react to the incident. According to AP reporter Tim Reynolds, a toy drive Hamlin organized has received more than $3.5 million in donations since the injury. A large contingent of fans in Cincinnati gathered outside of the hospital where Hamlin was being treated to show support for the injured athlete. Athletes, from football players like Hamlin’s teammate Josh Allen and Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, to NBA stars Klay Thompson and Donovan Mitchell, spoke out in support.
The NFL’s handling of the situation came under scrutiny Monday night and into Tuesday morning. ESPN’s broadcast team shared that they’d received word that, once Hamlin was removed from the field, players on both teams would have five minutes to warm up and prepare to resume play. But after a meeting between head coaches Zac Taylor and Sean McDermott, both teams went to their respective locker rooms. Shortly afterward, the game was called.
On a conference call, NFL executive Troy Vincent disputed the five-minute report. “It never crossed our mind to talk about warming up to resume play. That’s ridiculous. That’s insensitive. That’s not a place we should ever be in,” he said. It is not yet clear when—or if—it will be completed.
The situation was effectively a first for the National Football League, which has seen players suffer grave injuries on field, but has never fully suspended a game because of one. (Chuck Hughes, a member of the Detroit Lions in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, is the only player in league history to die of injuries suffered on the field. That game resumed.)
Hamlin’s marketing rep, Jordon Rooney, shared a general update Tuesday on Good Morning America. “I can’t speak specifically on his medical condition,” Rooney said. “I will say that he’s fighting, he’s a fighter…The family is in good spirits. We’re honestly just taking it minute by minute, hour by hour.”
Hamlin’s family issued their first statement around noon on January 3, thanking the Bills, Bengals, the University of Cincinnati Medical Center (where Hamlin is being treated), and the first responders who assisted him. “On behalf of our family, we want to express our sincere gratitude for the love and support shown to Damar during this challenging time,” the statement read. “We are deeply moved by the prayers, kind words, and donations from fans around the country.”