Sports

With Hamlin in Hospital, Bills Ready for Next Game

As the N.F.L. safety Damar Hamlin remained in critical condition on Thursday after he went into cardiac arrest during a game earlier this week, the rest of his Buffalo Bills teammates were planning to be back at practice ahead of their next game.

On Monday night, Bills players watched in horror as Hamlin, 24, laid on the field and medical staff attempted to restart his heart after he had collapsed and fell backward following a routine tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin remained on the field for 10 minutes before being transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The game was suspended, and Bills receiver Stefon Diggs was shown in a hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants walking into the hospital. Later that night, the team flew back to Buffalo. The Bills said Wednesday on social media that Hamlin had shown “signs of improvement” Tuesday and overnight, adding that he would remain under intensive care.

More on Damar Hamlin’s Collapse

  • N.F.L.’s Violent Spectacle: The appetite for football has never been higher, even as viewers look past the sport’s toll on players’ lives. Damar Hamlin’s collapse should force a reconsideration, our columnist writes.
  • In Buffalo: The Bills have offered the city a welcome distraction from a wrenching year. Now that shell of easy escapism has been shattered.
  • Schedule Scenarios: How will the N.F.L. resolve the Bills-Bengals game that was suspended after the injury? The league has a number of options.
  • ESPN’s Coverage: Within minutes of Mr. Hamlin’s collapse, the sports network transformed from being a broadcaster of a football game to being at the center of a major news event.

“I’m not a crier but I never cried so hard in my life,” Dorrian Glenn, an uncle of Hamlin’s, told reporters on Wednesday. “Just to know my nephew basically died on the field and they brought him back to life — that’s just heartbreaking.”

On Wednesday, the league had still not made a decision about whether to finish the game, which was suspended roughly nine minutes into the first quarter. Troy Vincent, the N.F.L.’s executive vice president of football operations, said it would not be resumed this week and that “everything is being considered.” The matchup had significant playoff implications in the A.F.C., and with the final week of regular-season games starting Saturday, the N.F.L. faces significant competitive questions as it hopes for Hamlin to recover.

Still, both the Bills and the Bengals appeared Wednesday to be preparing to play their originally scheduled games. The Bills, who are due to face the New England Patriots on Sunday, had a walk-through, a practice format in which teams typically go over plays without pads in a relaxed fashion. The session was closed to the news media. The Bengals said on Twitter that they planned to play the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon.

Hamlin, who was selected in the sixth round of the 2021 N.F.L. draft, became a starter earlier this season when the All-Pro safety Micah Hyde sustained a neck injury. Across 15 games and 13 starts, Hamlin had 63 individual tackles — second on the team.

With Hamlin still hospitalized, the Bills signed safety Jared Mayden from the Jets’ practice squad and released cornerback Xavier Rhodes, announcing the move on social media Wednesday. The transaction was another reminder of the merciless next-man-up culture in America’s most popular sport, where teams must quickly move on and replace players who may have life-altering injuries.

Buffalo, Cincinnati and Kansas City are all in a race for the A.F.C.’s No. 1 seed, a position that carries home-field advantage throughout the playoffs until the Super Bowl. The loser of Monday night’s game between Cincinnati and Buffalo would have been out of that race for the top seed, with the winner needing another victory and a Kansas City loss in Week 18 to earn the No. 1 seed.

Anything but deeming the game a tie would require the league to adjust the final week of the season and playoffs, or make these teams play a game on short rest, which creates a higher risk of injury.

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