Three days after safety Damar Hamlin collapsed during the Buffalo Bills’ Monday night game in Cincinnati, the NFL took another step toward normalcy.
For the New England Patriots, who are scheduled to play in Buffalo on Sunday, that meant another day of practice plus a return to media availability. The team had canceled its press meetings on both Tuesday and Wednesday, being allowed extra days off by the league.
The first to step to the podium on Thursday was head coach Bill Belichick. Naturally, the Hamlin incident was front and center.
Belichick offered his thoughts to all involved — Hamlin and his family, plus the two organizations in Buffalo and Cincinnati — before talking about the situation from a personal perspective.
“When I saw the situation, that reminded me very much of one that I experienced when I was with the Jets in 1997,” he said. “We played the Lions in the last game of the year, and Reggie Brown was injured. It was kind of a normal play. Adrian Murrell carried the ball, got tackled, everybody got up, went back to the huddle. Reggie laid on the field, didn’t move and was unconscious for quite a while.
“The whole process took a long time, must have taken a half hour. He was given CPR, revived, and then put on the board and put on the ambulance and driven off the field in the Silverdome. Obviously, it was quite a lengthy process where the teams looked very much like the game Monday night — concern, and thought, and prayer, and kneeling and so forth. It was a very chilling game, one that I’ll obviously never forget.”
Brown, a first-round draft pick by the Detroit Lions the previous year, suffered a spinal cord contusion in that game against the New York Jets. While he did survive, the injury forced him to end his career.
Belichick was an assistant coach in New York at the time, and therefore has some experience dealing with a situation similar to the one that took place on Monday; Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest in the first quarter of the Bills-Bengals game and went through a similar process.
While he remains in critical condition, the 24-year-old has shown “remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours”, per a Bills press release on Thursday morning.
“Football’s a very great and competitive game. Unfortunately, injuries and things like these can and do happen from time to time. It’s very unfortunate. Seems like the care that was given was very prompt and good — thankful for that. Life’s bigger than this game. It’s just one of those humbling moments for all of us that stands out.
“I’d say as a coach it’s different, and I’ve expressed this to players multiple times, but the respect that I have for them and what they do, and how they do it, is immense. I’m proud to coach the players that I’ve coached here and everywhere else, and respect them for what they do and how they do it.”