UPDATE: After Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed after a hit and was taken off the field by an ambulance, the NFL announced that the Bills-Bengals game will not be resumed this week. The league said in a statement Tuesday, “The NFL has made no decision regarding the possible resumption of the game at a later date. The league has not made any changes to the Week 18 regular season schedule. We will continue to provide additional information as it becomes available.”
The “Monday Night Football” game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals was suspended in the first quarter after Hamlin collapsed after a hit and suffered cardiac arrest, according to a statement from the Buffalo Bills released via Twitter at 1:48 a.m. ET.
The tweet confirmed NFL and ESPN reports that the player received CPR on the field, explaining that “his heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment. He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.”
On Tuesday morning, Hamlin’s family released a statement expressing gratitude for the outpouring of love and support.
“We are deeply moved by the prayers, kind words, and donations from fans around the country,” the family wrote. “We also want to acknowledge the dedicated first responders and healthcare
professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who have provided exceptional care to Damar.”
The statement continued: “We feel so blessed to be part of the Buffalo Bills organization and to have their support. We also want to thank Coach Taylor and the Bengals for everything they’ve done. Your generosity and compassion mean the world to us. Please keep Damar in your prayers.”
The scary situation played out live on “Monday Night Football,” around 8:55 p.m. ET, when Hamlin rose to his feet after tackling Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins and then suddenly collapsed. As medical personnel attended to Hamlin, players for both teams looked visibly distraught, with ESPN reporters describing the sight of Bills players openly weeping. The team gathered in a circle on the field moments after Hamlin was taken away from the field in an ambulance.
About 23 minutes after Hamlin collapsed, Bills coach Sean McDermott and Bengals coach Zac Taylor conferred and a temporary suspension of the game was called. The score was 7-3, with the Bengals in the lead and about 6 minutes to go in the first quarter.
The ambulance left the stadium at 9:25 p.m. ET, transporting the second-year Bills player to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the nearest trauma center to Paycor Stadium. “MNF” announcer Joe Buck reported that Hamlin’s mother was on hand for the game and accompanied him to the hospital.
“This has been a jarring scene down on that field as players are watching a teammate and a brother go through intense CPR down on that field,” Buck told viewers at 10:01 p.m. ET, when the NFL formally issued the decision to suspend the game for the night. There was no immediate word about rescheduling plans.
“It’s really tough,” said “MNF” in-studio anchor Suzy Kolber. “All we want, all everyone in this world wants is to know is that Damar Hamlin is going to be OK.”
Kolber and “MNF” analysts Adam Schefter and Booger McFarland were deep into analyzing the pivotal game for the two top contenders in the AFC East. But the discussion quickly turned somber. McFarland, a former player with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts, looked stunned as he, Kolber and Schefter sought to make sense of the shocking development. “America, right now, is concerned about one thing — the health and safety of this young man,” he said.
“MNF” announcers Buck and Troy Aikman and sideline reporter Lisa Salters were also left with few words but expressions of support for Hamlin and both teams. As the temporary suspension wore on, the ESPN team began to voice the sentiments of football fans across social media that the NFL should call the game. The hashtag #CalltheGame trended on Twitter.
The NFL’s formal statement noted that it had been in “constant communication with the NFL Players Association.”
The football pros of “MNF” knew that the game was over for tonight long before Roger Goodell, NFL Commission, called it.
“We’re done playing football tonight,” McFarland said at about 9:40 p.m. ET.
ESPN’s cameras shifted to outside the entrances to both team’s locker rooms. Viewers saw a grim-faced McDermott and Taylor conferring, and it was evident that Bills players and team staffers were starting to pack up.
After the game was called, Bob Iger, CEO of ESPN parent Walt Disney Co., was among those who publicly called for support for the young player.
“Tonight we should all be praying for Damar Hamlin,” the Disney chief said via Twitter.
Other top NFL stars, including Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Kansas City Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes, shared Iger’s sentiment on social media.
Following the postponement, ESPN tossed to “SportsCenter” host Scott Van Pelt who kept audiences updated on Hamlin’s condition with the help of correspondents on the ground in Cincinnati and former NFL player and analyst Ryan Clark in studio.
Van Pelt hammered home what viewers at home were thinking: “Sports are important. And suddenly, they’re not at all.”
For hours after the accident — and after the game was scheduled to end — Hamlin’s story dominated the news networks, with CNN, Fox News and MSNBC shifting to report on the sports story alongside ESPN and the NFL Network.
During the coverage, ESPN’s cameras captured Bills’ wide receiver Stefon Diggs as he arrived at the hospital to be with Hamlin and his family, as well as Bengals coach Taylor, who also checked in.
A group of approximately 50-60 Bills and Bengals fans also stood vigil offering their sympathies.
One glimmer of light amid the fraught situation has been a surge of support for a GoFundMe benefitting The Chasing M’s Foundation, which Hamlin created to give back to kids in Buffalo and his native Pittsburgh. Hamlin launched the account in 2020 with an initial goal to raise $2,500. Overnight, donations have surged to more than $3 million.
(Angelique Jackson and Emily Longeretta contributed to this report.)