CINCINNATI (AP) – Bills safety Damar Hamlin was in critical condition early Tuesday after suffering a cardiac arrest on the field after a tackle hours earlier, leading to the indefinite postponement of Buffalo’s pivotal Monday night showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit in our game versus the Bengals. His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment,” the Bills said in a statement. “He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.”
In a chilling scene, Hamlin was administered CPR on the field, ESPN reported, while surrounded by teammates, some of them in tears, while they shielded him from public view. He was hurt while tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins on a seemingly routine play that didn’t appear unusually violent.
The NFL announced Hamlin’s condition shortly after he was taken to a hospital, but neither the league nor the hospital released any other details about the 24-year-old’s medical condition. The team’s statement was released before its flight arrived back in Buffalo early Tuesday. There was also no immediate update about the future status of the game.
On the play Hamlin was injured, Higgins led with his right shoulder, which hit the defensive back in the chest. Hamlin then wrapped his arms around Higgins’ shoulders and helmet to drag him down. Hamlin quickly got to his feet, appeared to adjust his face mask with his right hand, and then fell backward about three seconds later and lay motionless.
Hamlin was treated on the field by team and independent medical personnel and local paramedics, and he was taken by ambulance to University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Teammate Stefon Diggs later joined Hamlin at the hospital.
About 100 Bills fans and a few Bengals fans gathered on a corner one block from the emergency room entrance, some of them holding candles.
Jeff Miller, an NFL executive vice president, told reporters on a conference call early Tuesday that the league had made no plans at this time to play the game, adding that Hamlin’s health was the main focus.
An ambulance was on the field four minutes after Hamlin collapsed while many players embraced, including quarterbacks Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow.
“Please pray for our brother,” Allen tweeted.
Hamlin collapsed at 8:55 p.m., and when he was taken off the field 16 minutes later, the Bills gathered in prayer. He was driven to University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Five minutes after the ambulance departed, the game was suspended, and players walked off the field slowly and into their locker rooms.
Hamlin’s uniform was cut off and he appeared to be getting CPR from medical personnel. ESPN reported on its telecast that Hamlin was also given oxygen.
“No one’s been through this,” longtime NFL quarterback Troy Aikman said on the ESPN telecast. “I’ve never seen anything like it, either.”
The Bengals led 7-3 in the first quarter of a game between teams vying for the top playoff seed in the AFC. Cincinnati entered at 11-4 and leading the AFC North by one game over Baltimore, while AFC East champion Buffalo was 12-3.
The aftermath of the injury was reminiscent of when Bills tight end Kevin Everett lay motionless on the field after making a tackle on the second-half opening kickoff in Buffalo’s 2007 season-opening game against the Denver Broncos.
Everett sustained a spinal cord injury that initially left him partially paralyzed.
The 24-year-old Hamlin spent five years of college at Pitt — his hometown — and appeared in 48 games for the Panthers over that span. He was a second-team All-ACC performer as a senior, was voted a team captain and was picked to play in the Senior Bowl.
He was drafted in the sixth round by the Bills in 2021, played in 14 games as a rookie and then became a starter this year once Micah Hyde was lost for the season to injury.
Entering the game, the 6-foot, 200-pound Hamlin had 91 tackles, including 63 solo tackles, and 1 1/2 sacks.
A tweet from the Pitt football account was simple and clear: “Damar Hamlin is the best of us. We love you, 3,” the tweet said, referring to Hamlin by his college jersey number. “Praying for you.”