By Keith Reed
On Monday night the NFL made the unprecedented decision to suspend a prime-time football game after a frightening incident involving a player.
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, 24, collapsed seconds after making a tackle early in the first quarter of the Bills’ Monday Night Football road game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin’s injury, which we now know was cardiac arrest, happened at 8:55 p.m., according to ESPN, which was broadcasting the game live. As Hamlin lay motionless, paramedics came to the field and administered CPR for almost 10 minutes to restart his heart, after which an ambulance was driven onto the field to transport Hamlin to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center at 9:25 p.m. He was reported to be in critical condition.
By 10 p.m., the NFL had issued a statement announcing that the game was being suspended. The organization later had a conference call overnight to explain their decision.
The scenario unfolded during what started as a routine play in a game between two teams jockeying for position in the NFL’s AFC playoffs. The Bills and Bengals went into the game among the top seeds in the conference and the outcome of the game was supposed to clarify the playoff picture.
With the Bengals driving, quarterback Joe Burrow hit receiver Tee Higgins with a short pass, after which Higgins collided with Hamlin, both men falling to the ground. After the tackle, Hamlin stood for a second, before falling back to the ground, his body going limp. Players and officials frantically motioned to the sidelines for medical attention.
As medical officials tended to Hamlin, performing CPR, Bills and Bengals players were emotional. Many cried; others knelt in prayer or held hands.
There is no recent precedent, and perhaps none in the history of the NFL, for the suspension or cancellation of a game that was already being played due to a player injury. Ironically, the setting for Monday night’s incident was the same as another on-field tragedy. Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier was left paralyzed after tackling a Bengals receiver on a Monday Night Football game in December 2017 in the same stadium. Shazier never played football again, but after extensive rehabilitation regained the ability to walk.
Donations to Hamlin’s foundation, which hosts a toy drive every year, have been pouring in. Reports are that more than $3 million has been raised thus far.