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Damar Hamlin updates: Buffalo Bills player asked in writing if team won the game, doctors said

USA TODAY SPORTS 1/6/2023 Cydney Henderson, Chris Bumbaca, Safid Deen and Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY

Editor's note: On Friday morning, the Buffalo Bills said Damar Hamlin was breathing on his own and speaking after doctors removed his breathing tube overn. Here's our latest coverage of Hamlin.

One of Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s first thoughts after he woke up in the intensive care unit on Wednesday night was to ask, in writing, who won Monday's Bills-Bengals game during which he went into cardiac arrest.

Upon waking up after being sedated, Hamlin followed commands and even was able to communicate in writing. Hamlin remains in critical condition with a breathing tube, according to his doctors, who made their first public comments Thursday about his condition in a news conference held at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on Jan. 23, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. © Ed Zurga, AP Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on Jan. 23, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo.

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“The answer is yes, Damar, you won the game of life,” Dr. Timothy Pritts said.

Hamlin’s first comments were to a nurse at his bedside, according to doctors, while his family, friends and members of the Bills organization have remained by his side since he was transported to the medical facility.

"He’s held many peoples' hands," Dr. William Knight IV said of Hamlin.

"He’s been very interactive with them," Pritts added.

Doctors said Hamlin expressed surprise when he was informed he was previously sedated for two days, and for the massive support he has received.

“It’s not only that the lights are on, it’s that he’s home,” Pritts said of Hamlin. 

“All of the cylinders are firing right in his brain.”

Hamlin is making substantial progress and his neurologic condition and function are intact, his doctors said.

“It’s been a long and difficult road for the last three days. He’s been very sick, and made a very remarkable recovery and improvement.” Knight said.

“He still has significant progress he needs to make, but this makes a good turning point in his ongoing care,” Pritts said. 

The UC doctors credited members of the Bills medical staff for their immediate recognition of Hamlin’s condition, when he did not register a pulse, for responding appropriately with CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED). 

“We cannot credit the Bills medical team enough,” Pritts said. “It's rare to have something this serious happen and to recognize it so quickly.”

The doctors said Hamlin has “many, many steps still ahead of him” on his road to recovery, including breathing on his own, before he can be ultimately discharged. 

There’s no timetable for Hamlin’s recovery, as doctors continue to take things day by day. 

"What we would like to see before we upgrade him to stable condition would be breathing tube out and continuing to improving from a neurological and respiratory standpoint," Pritts said.

Knight and Pritts hope Hamlin can return to “who he was before this happened,” but also acknowledged “it’s entirely too early” to discuss whether Hamlin can play football again.

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OPINION: ESPN's immediate coverage of Damar Hamlin situation done with right tone

Here is the latest: 

NFL won't resume Bills-Bengals game

The Bills and Bengals will not resume or replay their game that was suspended Jan. 2 following Hamlin's collapse, the NFL announced Thursday

The league made the announcement that the game has been canceled, so both teams will finish the 2022 regular season with one fewer game played than every other team in the league. A vote will be held Friday on a proposal regarding how to deal with playoff seeding recommended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and approved by the competition committee.

Not having to carve out time to replay the Bills-Bengals game will allow the NFL to begin the playoffs next weekend as scheduled, a factor that played into the league's decision. It will also preserve the off week between the conference championship games on Jan. 29 and Super Bowl 57 on Feb. 12.

“As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities,” Goodell said in a statement announcing the decision. “I recognize that there is no perfect solution. The proposal we are asking the ownership to consider, however, addresses the most significant potential equitable issues created by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game under these extraordinary circumstances.”

Josh Allen says Hamlin's family helped team move forward

Head coach Sean McDermott said in a Thursday news conference that the Bills have had extra counselors available for the team in the wake of Hamlin’s injury. Quarterback Josh Allen said Monday's events will be something that sticks with the team.

“Some people are gonna be changed forever after being on the field and witnessing that and feeling those emotions,” Allen said. “But the updates we continue to get on Damar really lift our spirits. Leaning on each other, talking to each other. We’ve had some very open, honest and deep talks.”

Both McDermott and Allen, asked if the Bills will be ready to play this Sunday against the New England Patriots, said the team would. Allen said the team’s talk with Damar’s father, Mario Hamlin, this week gave them the motivation to push forward.

"Mario (Hamlin) talking to us as a team and the things that he told us. He really didn’t tell us, he demanded us. You can’t not honor his request to go out there and charge forward to the best of our abilities," Allen said. "Obviously we will be playing with less heavy hearts now. (Thursday's) news, there was a lot of tears of joy, I’ll tell you that. To know that’s what he wants, that’s what his dad wants, I think guys are excited to get out there."

Former U.S. surgeon general: Want to honor Damar Hamlin? Learn CPR. It made all the difference for him.

NFLPA offers ‘highly optimistic’ update

Dr. Thom Mayer, medical director of the NFL Players’ Association, said “all signs are highly optimistic” and that Hamlin woke up much sooner than expected.

The expectation is he will make a full neurological recovery, although there are still hurdles for him to clear before that happens, Mayer said. 

Mayer said he reviewed videotape of the incident Monday and determined that three highly trained emergency medical professionals were standing within 30 yards of where Hamlin collapsed on the field and were instrumental in saving his life.

Mayer added that, combined with the world-class care he received, Hamlin’s own courage and fight made his recovery possible.

Other highlights from the call included:

-NFLPA president JC Tretter said it was an immediate and unanimous viewpoint of the union’s executive committee that the game would not be resumed Monday night. A dialogue with Bengals safety Michael Thomas, an executive committee member, as well as the union leaders in both locker rooms, was initiated promptly. It was clear neither team would be taking the field that night, Tretter said.

As for the “five minutes to warm up” before resuming play controversy, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said he had no discussions with league stakeholders about a timeframe to restart the game.

-All NFLPA calls have emphasized mental health, Tretter said, and the union is ready to provide resources to members who request it.

-If an eighth team is added to the postseason field, resulting in an addition to the designed workload for the season, the league would have to negotiate with the union, according to basic collective bargaining agreement rules, Smith said.

Doctors commend Bills' medical staff responsiveness

Dr. Pritts commended the the Bills training staff for immediately recognizing this was not an ordinary injury and that it was something much more serious. Activating the emergency response team was also pivotal. 

"Really, this went as well as something like this could go under very challenging circumstances, and they did a fantastic job, which is why we’re here today," Pritts said.

The immediate medical attention, and the standard in which it was deployed, "has led us to be able to discuss these good outcomes today," Dr. Knight said. 

Bengals’ Tee Higgins 'in a good place right now’

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Tee Higgins said he’s “in a good place right now” after hearing from Damar Hamlin’s mother about his improvement on Thursday morning.

Higgins was involved in the hit that came right before the Buffalo Bills receiver went into cardiac arrest on the field during the game Monday night. Doctors say Hamlin has made “remarkable improvement” in the last 24 hours.

“It’s been hard, just because I had something to do with the play and whatnot,” Higgins said Thursday in his first comments since Hamlin went down and the game was suspended. “But everybody has been making me feel whole again. I talked to his mom and notice everything is OK. He’s doing good.”

Higgins said Hamlin’s mother told him “she’s thinking of me and praying for me.”

– Associated Press

Joe Biden, public continue to offer support

Three days after Hamlin collapsed and was resuscitated at Paycor Stadium, support continues to pour in around the world for the Bills’ second-year safety.

President Joe Biden said he spoke to Hamlin's parents "at length." 

Biden also shared a message for Hamlin on Twitter on Thursday in response to the health update the Bills provided earlier in the day.

“Damar, like I told your mom and dad (Wednesday), Jill and I – along with all of America – are praying for you and your family,” the tweet said.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said his team is behind the Bills "100 percent in what they want to do going forward" with their postponed game. Fans have donated millions of dollars to a GoFundMe site Hamlin created in 2020 to buy toys for children ahead of the holidays. 

"It's been incredible. It's made a tough situation just a little bit easier," Hamlin's marketing rep, Jordon Rooney, said on behalf of the Hamlin family. "They're so grateful. They are always giving to others, so for so many people to rally around them, they just keep saying how thankful they are."

Jets DB seeks Hamlin jersey to wear during Week 18 pregame

New York Jets star rookie defensive back Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner tweeted Wednesday that he's looking for a Hamlin jersey to wear before his team's Week 18 game Sunday against the Dolphins in Miami.

Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin tweeted the reply, "We got you!"

Gardner responded that he appreciated Rubin's offer and asked for him to send it to the Jets' facility.

Fanatics announced that proceeds from Hamlin's jersey sales will be donated to the foundation as well.

Pro Football Focus tweeted that Hamlin's jersey has been one of the highest-selling jerseys this week.

– Dave Clark, Cincinnati Enquirer

Zac Taylor shares what Sean McDermott said to him on sidelines 

ESPN cameras captured Bengals coach Zac Taylor and Bills coach Sean McDermott talking on multiple occasions while Monday's game was temporarily suspended. Taylor didn’t disclose what was said in its entirety, but he did reveal that the focus wasn’t on football once Hamlin was rushed to the hospital.

“When I got over there, the first thing (Sean McDermott) said is I need to be at the hospital with Damar. I shouldn’t be coaching this game. That to me provides all the clarity,” Taylor said. “In that moment he really showed who he was. All his focus was just on Damar, being there for him, being there for his family at the hospital. At that point everything trended where it needed to trend. The right decisions were made there.”

When will Bills-Bengals game resume?

On Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the Bills-Bengals game would not resume this week. On Wednesday, the league began discussions about when it would be played. 

"Everything is being considered," NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said during a conference call.

The league has not made any changes to the Week 18 regular-season schedule. The Bengals will host the Ravens, while the Bills host the Patriots, both set for 1 p.m. ET Sunday.

Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, said a decision will be made "in the coming days."

Joe Burrow: 'We’re behind them 100 percent'

The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback said he's open to finishing the game against the Bills while the NFL sorts out scheduling, but he said he ultimately supports whatever the Bills think is best. 

“I think that would be tough, just scheduling-wise,” Burrow said. “I think whatever Buffalo would want to do, we would want to do. We’re behind them 100 percent in what they want to do going forward."

Burrow and his Bengals teammates consoled Bills players during Hamlin’s medical emergency on the field, and Burrow and Bengals captains visited Bills players in their locker room before the game was ultimately postponed.

Burrow made it clear that the Bengals "didn’t want to go back out there" before the game was called. He added: "I wanted them to know we felt the same way they did."

What happened to Damar Hamlin?


Hamlin tackled Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins after a 13-yard gain during the Bills-Bengals Monday Night Football showdown. The play appeared to be routine. Hamlin stood up afterwards, but collapsed to the ground with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter.

An ambulance was brought onto the field. Hamlin was treated with CPR and an AED to restore his heartbeat on the field as players from both teams created a human shield around Hamlin as emergency responders worked to resuscitate him. Hamlin was then placed on a stretcher before being transported to the hospital.

The game was temporarily suspended then — one hour and five minutes after Hamlin collapsed — postponed.

It was later revealed that Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest. But what is cardiac arrest, and how might it have happened to Hamlin?

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Damar Hamlin updates: Buffalo Bills player asked in writing if team won the game, doctors said

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