Normally at this time in the week, I would start planning and writing my NFL Weekly Recap. I would review snippets of film and deep dive into PFF data to see which players and teams outshined others, hoping to put out the best product I could week in and week out. Today, I am writing about a scary incident from Monday Night Football involving Damar Hamlin, a defensive back for the Buffalo Bills. But before football, Damar is a human being. Damar is more than football, and this moment is more than this sport.
Photo: Damar Hamlin's YouTube Channel
For nearly 24 hours, Damar's family, Damar's teammates, football fans, and people with no attachment to the sport, have been eagerly waiting to hear good news regarding his health. We have come together as a community to give thoughts, prayers, good wishes, and positive energy out in hopes that Damar will not only survive, but make a full recovery. We have seen incredible gestures to his charity named The Chasing M's Foundation, as the total money raised has jumped from $2,500 to over $4.5 million from over 160,000 donors in less than 24 hours. The Chasing M's Foundation's initiative is geared towards gifting toys to children in need, and this charity also works to provide resources for kid's camps, back-to-school drives, and more. These immense gestures from so many are a testament to the kindness of everyday citizens, and will help pave the way to improve the lives of numerous children and families in more ways than imaginable.
As far as what we know, Damar was involved in a collision - in what seemed like a routine play. At 8:55 PM, after tackling Bengals wide receiver, Tee Higgins, Damar stood up for a second, and then fell backwards, slamming the back of his head into the turf. Within the next 20 minutes, Damar suffered cardiac arrest, received CPR for nine minutes, was administered an AED, was surrounded by his teammates and team personnel, as well as the Bengals players and personnel, and was taken out via ambulance from the stadium. Shortly after being taken away, the game was suspended, and then postponed nearly an hour later. Hamlin is currently in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where his vitals have returned to normal, but he is still sedated for further treatment and testing.
Bengals and Bills fans awaited outside the hospital, praying in unity for Hamlin's recovery. Stefon Diggs, Damar's teammate, came to visit him in the hospital and stay by his bedside, even though the Bills team chose not to stay in Cincinnati after the game. Damar's family is beyond thankful for the kind gestures and donations from people around the world. While we await more updates from Damar's family, we can only continue to send positive energy his way, donate to his charity, and lean on and love on one another on a daily basis.
During the moments after Damar was taken off the field, where it was uncertain if the game would continue, the officiating crew made a statement that the players would have five minutes to warm up and gather themselves before resuming the game. Bills and Bengals head coaches Sean McDermott and Zac Taylor met together with the officials and decided to head into the locker room to await more news. After the game was eventually postponed, NFL EVP Troy Vincent said "it never crossed our mind to talk about warming up to resume play", he then added "that's ridiculous, that's insensitive, that's not a place we should ever be in." Whether or not the league office, the game officials, or some other third party decided to initially resume play is currently unknown, and there should be no scrutiny regarding this until more information comes out.
I want to take a moment to state what a stellar job everyone involved did last night. From the medical staff, to the team personnel and their players, to the fans at the stadium, to the ESPN crew, namely Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Lisa Salters, Suzy Kolber, Booger McFarland, Adam Schefter, Scott Van Pelt, and Ryan Clark, and to those worldwide who shared in a moment of positive thoughts, prayers, and energy towards Damar and his family. I do not want to take away from those who were also affected heavily by this, namely Tee Higgins for being involved in the hit, and anyone who was on the field or at the stadium during this moment. This is a traumatic experience that these people witnessed right in front of them, and will remember for the rest of their lives. I hope the NFL does the right thing and provides as many varying resources in regards to mental, emotional, and spiritual services as they can in order to make sure the members of their organization can get the help they need.
Let this remind us that this moment is more than football. This moment is more than anything else that mattered in that period of time. Life is too short to let something like sports, work, grudges, conflicts, or any other relatively meaningless construct get in the way of love, friendship, and community. As a current player, I can only imagine what it must have been like for the Bills and Bengals players to watch a teammate and opponent go through that. I hope I never have to experience it, as that is a reality of the game we play.
Continue to keep Damar and his family in your thoughts. This is a trying time for all involved, and we can only hope for the best news possible. I will be posting the GoFundMe link to Damar's charity below. Let's remember that Damar is more than a football player. He is a son, a brother, a friend, a leader in his community, and an outstanding human being.
GoFundMe Link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/mxksc-the-chasing-ms-foundation-community-toy-drive?pc=tw_social&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=bcgfm_tw_fund_mxksc-the-chasing-ms-foundation-community-toy-drive
Photo: Jeff Dean/Associated Press