Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapses on the field during 1st quarter
A game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals with playoff implications was one of the most heavily-hyped NFL games of the year and the biggest Monday Night Football matchup in quite sometime, to be televised on not only ESPN but ABC and ESPN 2 (without a ManningCast as there was none scheduled for this game) as well.
Instead, it was a night of near-tragedy and disbelief.
In the first quarter at the 5:54 mark from Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium, Bills safety Damar Hamlin (who wears #3) collapsed on the field after making a tackle. TV replays showed him getting up after the play, but then fell back on the ground. Trainers and medical personnel rushed out onto the field and he appeared to be given CPR as horrified players from both teams looked on. Hamlin was loaded into an ambulance and taken to a local Cincinnati hospital where he currently is critical condition. Stunned, Bills players gathered around in prayer.
After a few minutes, referees and the league reportedly gave players from both teams five minutes to warm up, though now this is being disputed. But after witnessing what unfolded, they decided to leave the field as the game was “temporarily suspended”. After consultation with NFL officials and the NFLPA – the union who represents the players – the game was called off at 10 p.m. ET as Bills personnel was removing equipment from the sidelines. Hamlin’s collapse happened a little over an hour earlier.
Scheduled until 11:30 p.m. ET, ABC’s coverage ended a half-hour earlier, in time for local affiliates to air their late news in the Eastern and Central time zones. In Chicago, where there was enough tragedy reported on with the tremendous amount of gun violence in the city over New Year’s Weekend, local stations led their 9 and 10 p.m. newscasts with the news of Hamlin’s collapse.
Stunned commentators were at a loss of words, as some including Joe Buck and sideline reporter Lisa Salters nearly came to tears. ESPN/ABC went to studio with hosts Suzy Kobler, Booger McFarland, and Adam Schefter, who typically handle the Monday Night Football pre-game and halftime shows. After the game was called off, Scott Van Pelt from ESPN’s Washington, D.C. studios anchored continued coverage with Ryan Clark as they discussed what happened Monday night.
Meanwhile, viewers on social media panned the NFL Network for airing documentary reruns instead of going live on one of the biggest breaking news stories involving the league in years.
According to NextTV, ESPN initially had ads run from clients such as Apple and Capital One when play was halted, but it appears advertising was pulled as network promos and PSAs filled subsequent breaks, at least on the ABC feed. At one point, ESPN/ABC was in break for ten minutes as the network was trying to figure out what to do given the unusual situation.
Right now, there is no word on when the game would be finished. But certainly this isn’t really important as Hamlin is fighting for his life in a Cincinnati hospital. What happened Monday night evoked memories of a game in 1971 when Detroit Lions player Chuck Hughes suffered a heartattack on the field in a contest against the Chicago Bears at Tiger Stadium and died at a local hospital 40 minutes later.
Here’s is the official statement from the NFL: