By Rory Carroll and Steve Keating
(Reuters) – Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was in critical condition after suffering a cardiac arrest during Monday’s National Football League (NFL) game against Cincinnati.
The 24-year-old briefly got to his feet after making a tackle on the Bengals’ Tee Higgins in the first quarter but then fell on his back.
The game in Cincinnati was halted as medical staff quickly attended to him while players from both teams took a knee. Hamlin was given CPR before leaving the field in an ambulance.
The NFL later announced the game had been postponed.
“Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit in our game versus the Bengals,” the Bills said in a statement.
“His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment. He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.”
As Hamlin was taken to the hospital at 9:25 p.m. local time, players from both teams went to their locker rooms, some with tears in their eyes.
“Hamlin received immediate medical attention on the field by team and independent medical staff and local paramedics,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.
“Our thoughts are with Damar and the Buffalo Bills. We will provide more information as it becomes available.”
Hamlin’s family came down from the stands to be with him as he was transported to University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Local media said fans from both teams were standing outside the hospital waiting for news, some holding candles.
It was unclear when the game between two AFC contenders with the No. 1 seed hanging in the balance would be concluded.
The NFL said in a conference call that the Bills would be returning to Buffalo and a decision on the game would come later.
The Bills are scheduled to close out the regular season on Sunday when they host the New England Patriots while the Bengals take on the Baltimore Ravens.
“That’s not our consideration right now, our concern is for the player and his wellbeing,” Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, told reporters.
“I am sure at the appropriate time we will have a conversation around the next steps regarding the game.”
‘PLEASE BE OK’
The NFL Players Association also said Hamlin’s health was the number one priority.
“We have been in touch with the Bills and Bengals players, and with the NFL,” it said. “The only thing that matters at this moment is Damar’s health and wellbeing.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul was among those to express concern for Hamlin.
“Our hearts are with his family, loved ones, and the entire
@BuffaloBills community,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Please be ok man,” tweeted Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt.
Jessica Pegula, the daughter of Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, said she and her American team mates at the United Cup mixed team tennis tournament in Sydney were horrified.
“It’s just terrible. There’s really no words. I’m glad they stopped the game,” Pegula said. “It brings you back to there’s a lot of bigger things that are more important than sports and games. It was pretty scary.”
The Bengals led 7-3 when the injury occurred, Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium falling silent after Hamlin collapsed and it quickly became clear the situation was serious.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow sought out his Bills counterpart Josh Allen and hugged him, while fans, many openly crying, remained in their seats until it was announced nearly an hour later that the game was suspended.
“Please pray for our brother,” Allen tweeted.
Players and coaches did not hold news conferences.
As spectators filed out of the stadium, one Bengals fan stood solemnly holding a sign saying: “Pray for Buffalo #3 Hamlin.”
A McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania native who played college football at the University of Pittsburgh, Hamlin was taken by the Bills in the sixth round, 212th overall, of the 2021 NFL Draft.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles and Steve Keating in Toronto, Additional reporting by Rohith Nair and Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Ed Osmond)