While there was some speculation earlier this week that the New England Patriots’ Week 18 game agains the Buffalo Bills might be postponed, all signs point toward the game taking place as planned even with Bills safety Damar Hamlin remaining hospitalized after an in-game collapse on Monday.
The 24-year-old went down in the first quarter of the team’s game in Cincinnati, and had to receive CPR and supplemental oxygen before leaving the field in an ambulance. He was transported to a local hospital where he remains to this day, but has been showing encouraging signs of recovery.
Given his collapse, the NFL decided against continuing Bills-Bengals. The game was initially suspended and has since been declared a no-contest by the league. This upcoming weekend’s games — including the Patriots’ in Buffalo — remain standing as scheduled.
On Thursday, New England head coach Bill Belichick said that his team was not focused on anything out of its control. His Bills counterpart Sean McDermott, meanwhile, advocated for playing the game on Sunday.
“I feel strongly — as Mario, his dad, mentioned to us — this is what Damar would’ve wanted and wants,” McDermott told reporters during a press conference on Thursday. “And this is my opinion and my take on it: We owe that to Damar. We owe that to his family.”
McDermott took the podium for the first time since Hamlin’s collapse on Thursday and was joined by Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Like his head coach, Allen also spoke out in favor of the game against the Patriots taking place as intended.
He also believes that Buffalo will be ready to take the field again, just six days after watching Hamlin suffer cardiac arrest following a routine play.
“I do,” he said. “That’s what Damar’s dad wants. We can’t not honor his request. Guys are excited to get out there.”
As far as the emotions taking place this week, Allen referred to football’s power as a cathartic release for the team.
“I think for every person it’s going to be a little different,” he said. “I think putting the helmet back on today was a really good thing for our team and just to kind of go through that process. But I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say some people are going to be changed forever after being on the field and witnessing that and feeling those emotions.”
That sentiment was shared by Patriots captain Matthew Slater on Thursday as well.
“Certainly to witness something like that is one thing but then to prepare to go out on the field against the team who’s teammate had that happen to him is challenging in a number of ways,” he said. “We’re navigating that as we proceed through the week and I think everyone’s trying the best they can to do their job and be prepared to play on Sunday. I’d be lying if I said it was an easy thing to do, cause it’s not an easy task. But we’re doing out best and taking it day-by-day.”
New England’s game in Buffalo is scheduled for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff on Sunday.