Lombardi: With Damar Hamlin fighting for his life, football rightfully takes a back seat

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Football needed to take a back seat Monday night.

Nothing was more important than taking care of Bill safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered cardiac arrest after tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin had his heartbeat restored and was administered CPR on the field, which caused players from both teams to become extremely emotional understanding the gravity of the situation. The players knew football wasn’t a priority and being connected with their brothers in arms was their only concern. The NFL league office recognized that and correctly suspended, then postponed the game. Today, we all wait for further information and continue praying for Damar.

 

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What occurred on the field Monday night isn’t something anyone can forget — the gravity of the situation will affect us for a long time. This was traumatic, unlike anything fans have witnessed over the last half-century on the field. We have watched players get carted off, worried about their movements, their knee injuries and broken bones.  But receiving CPR on the field, being in a life-or-death situation has never been on display. The impact of the events cannot be overlooked, nor can anyone expect normalcy to resume in a matter of hours or days. 

As the players tightened the circle around Hamlin, to keep the cameras from witnessing the medical people performing CPR, they drew closer to the harshness of the situation. As they protected us, they inflicted more pain on themselves, creating the need for a professional therapist who specializes in trauma to assist the players and staff deal with the events. We cannot expect either team to be unaffected as the season continues. Players are not machines; they cannot turn off and on. As Hamlin fights for his life, players from both sides will be fighting with him, not caring about the next day’s install or playoff seeding.

Football is a team sport — each man fighting for one another side by side. The stronger the bonds from teammate to teammate, the stronger the team. When ME becomes WE, the battles they face each Sunday become manageable. Those who have played this game since their youth understand and accept the harshness of the game — the injuries that can occur. If one teammate falls behind, another steps up to keep the team moving forward toward the goal. They all lose themselves in the work they do, carrying their brother with them as an inspiration. His presence off the field inspires those on the field. No player ever leaves the team — which is why the faces Monday night were frightening. What players have grown accustomed to accepting became cloudy. What was once black or white became a different shade of gray — and in that color, the players held no answers. Only through a positive medical report for Hamlin can they move forward. The same can be said for all of us football fans.

The Bills returned to Orchard Park, N.Y., early Tuesday morning, indicating the game will not resume anytime soon. The NFL announced on Tuesday that the Bills-Bengals game will not be resumed this week, if at all.

And frankly who cares?