The NFL took the unprecedented step of suspending play Monday night after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in Cincinnati, and — while shocked and weeping teammates watched — was administered CPR and transported by ambulance to a local hospital in critical condition.
Hamlin, 24, climbed to his feet after making a jarring but routine tackle of receiver Tee Higgins, then stumbled and seemed to lose consciousness as he fell backward to the turf. Players who witnessed that urgently motioned for medical personnel, and the ambulance was brought onto the field.
Players from both teams clustered around the scene, many in tears. The stunned crowd anticipating one of the biggest AFC showdowns of the season watched in near silence. Dozens of players from both teams formed a circle and knelt in prayer. The game was stopped with six minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
Hamlin’s family was at the game, and according to various reports, his mother rode with him to UC Medical Center, the only Level 1 trauma hospital in the region.
The field was cleared, with both teams returning to their locker rooms. Bills coach Sean McDermott and Bengals coach Zac Taylor convened outside the visitors’ locker room and spoke by phone to league officials in New York, and the NFL officially suspended play.
During the hour before that announcement was made, the reaction on social media was swift and vociferous. “Call the Game” trended on Twitter, and players around the league voiced their prayers and support of Hamlin.
“The game is not important. Damar Hamlin’s life is important,” Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt tweeted. “Please be ok. Please.”
Hamlin attended the University of Pittsburgh, and Pitt Football tweeted: “Damar Hamlin is the best of us. We love you, 3. Praying for you.”
Also on Twitter, a pregame video circulated of Hamlin happily jogging to a roped-off area on the sideline before the game and hugging a woman, possibly his mother, and posing for a selfie with her.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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