EXPLAINER: What happened to Damar Hamlin?

Buffalo Bills guard Damar Hamlin injured cardiac arrest after rolling during a Monday night game, causing the NFL to suspend a playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals that quickly played out after a scary scene unfolded to a national television audience.

“Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after getting into our game against the Bengals. His heart has been restored on the field and he has been transferred to the University of California Medical Center for further testing and treatment,” the Bills said in a statement released early Tuesday. “He is currently sedated and in critical condition.”

Hamlin, 24, underwent CPR on the field, ESPN reported during the broadcast. Teammates surrounded Hamlin, shielding him from prying eyes. Many wept and prayed as Hamlin was assisted on the field by the team, independent medical staff and local paramedics. He was taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Teammate Stephon Diggs later went to visit Hamlin in the hospital, while fans from both teams gathered outside holding lit candles and praying.


Hamlin was injured while battling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins in a seemingly routine game that did not appear unusually violent.

Higgins was running with the ball on a 13-yard pass from Joe Burrow when he led with a right shoulder that hit Hamlin in the chest. Hamlin then wrapped his arms around Higgins’ shoulders and helmet to pull him down. Hamlin quickly got to his feet, adjusted his mask with his right hand, and then three seconds later fell back and lay motionless.

Hamlin lay for 19 minutes while receiving medical treatment. WXIX-TV in Cincinnati reported that Hamlin required an automated external defibrillator (AED) in addition to CPR in the field.


It took the NFL about an hour after Hamlin passed out to officially suspend play because league officials were gathering information and talking to referee Sean Smith, coaches from both teams, and the NFL Players Association.

Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, said the NFL’s contingency plan has been activated. Vincent spoke with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. Don Aponte, the league’s chief football officer, attended the game and interacted with Bills coach Sean McDermott and Bengals coach Zach Taylor, as well as the referee.

“It was fluid and everything changed by the minute,” Vincent said. “On the phone it was clear that the emotions were extremely high. It was a very unstable situation.”

Vincent denied ESPN reporting that both teams were given a five-minute warm-up period to restart play.

“I don’t know where it came from,” Vincent said. “It never occurred to us to talk about the warm-up before the resumption of the game. This is nonsense. It’s insensitive. This is not where we should ever be.”


Hamlin spent five years in college in Pittsburgh, his hometown, and during that time he appeared in 48 games for the Panthers. He was a second-team All-ACC player as a senior, was elected team captain, and was selected to play in the Senior Bowl.

Hamlin, a sixth-round pick by the Bills in 2021, played in 14 games as a rookie and then became a starter this season after Micah Hyde was injured.

In 2020, Hamlin began hosting an annual Christmas toy drive in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. By early Tuesday, Hamlin’s public toy drive had grown to more than $3.1 million in donations. His stated goal was $2,500.

Bills forward Roger Suffold described Hamlin as “kind, caring, extremely hardworking” in a Twitter post. Suffold wrote that Hamlin is “loyal, honest and can always put a smile on your face. He is more than an athlete, he is a son and a brother.”


The Bills-Bengals game has major playoff implications. Both teams are fighting for first place in the AFC. The Bills (12-3) entered the game in first place, while the Bengals (11-4) had a chance to take down the AFC North with a win and were also in the No. 1 seed mix with Kansas City (13-3 ).

The Bengals were up 7-3 in the first quarter when play was stopped.

Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, public relations and policy, said during a conference call shortly after midnight that a timeline for a resumption of play was not being considered at the time.

“We are concerned about the player and his well-being. I’m sure we’ll discuss the next steps for the game at the right time,” Miller said.

The NFL is entering the final week of the regular season and the playoffs are due to begin on January 14th.


Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/robmaaddi


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL.

Copyright 2023 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

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