On Monday evening, millions gathered to watch a prime NFL matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. However, the game was halted after only a few minutes following the on-field collapse of 24-year-old Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin. Hamlin made a tackle, stood up, and then fell backward to the ground.
Within seconds, training staffs and medical personnel acted in an emergency manner, and players were immediately displaying significant concern with reactions. Hamlin remained on the field for nearly 30 minutes and, eventually, both teams went to the locker room with word breaking that the game was “temporarily suspended” after the league initially providing a five minute warmup for the game to resume. The two coaches met twice and decided to go back to the locker rooms, as it became clear no one was prepared to resume play after such a tragic scene.
ESPN’s broadcast relayed that CPR was administered to Hamlin on the field, and an ambulance took him from the field to a local hospital for medical treatment. Details were difficult to glean, both in the immediate aftermath and as the situation continued, though ESPN’s studio coverage did eventually call for the game to be postponed, citing the very clear realization that this is a situation much more important than any football outcome.
Prior to the official announcement the game was being postponed, the Bills equipment staff could be seen packing up their sideline and Lisa Salters reported players from both teams were meeting in the hallway to exchange hugs, with some in towels indicating the game was going to be, rightfully, called for the night.
At 10:00 p.m. ET, John Parry announced on the ESPN broadcast that the league was officially postponing the game and would figure out the next steps later.
The on air announcement of the game being suspended.
A very tough hour to watch, let alone have to work through. pic.twitter.com/TX5nkrBPOr
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 3, 2023
It was the right call given the emotion of the moment and that the only thing that mattered was Hamlin’s health. Until an update could be provided on his status, there was no reasonable way the league could ask players to return to the field and play the rest of the game. The league would release an official statement shortly after offering the first update on Hamlin, noting he is in critical condition at the hospital.