Hamlin family grateful for support, seeks prayers

The family of Damar Hamlin on Tuesday thanked the public for their support and asked for continued prayers for the Buffalo Bills safety, who remains hospitalized in critical condition after going into cardiac arrest on the field in Cincinnati on Monday night.

“On behalf of our family, we want to express our sincere gratitude for the love and support shown to Damar during this challenging time. We are deeply moved by the prayers, kind words, and donations from fans around the country,” the family said in a statement released Tuesday morning.

“We also want to acknowledge the dedicated first responders and healthcare professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who have provided exceptional care to Damar. We feel so blessed to be part of the Buffalo Bills organization and to have their support. We also want to thank Coach Taylor and the Bengals for everything they’ve done. Your generosity and compassion mean the world to us. Please keep Damar in your prayers. We will release updates as soon as we have them.”

According to the Bills, he is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.

Several teams canceled media availability on Tuesday out of respect to Hamlin, including the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars, who canceled the rest of their availability after guard Brandon Scherff spoke.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin held his weekly availability Tuesday and said, “It’s a really personal thing for me. Being a Pittsburgher and that young man being a Pittsburgher.”

“I’ve known that guy probably since he was about 12. Just got a lot of respect and love for him as a human being. His commitment to the pursuit of his goals and dreams of doing what it is he’s doing right now, which is playing in the NFL, and to watch him make personal decisions and make that a realization, it’s just an honor to get to know young people like that. I had an opportunity to express that to him whenever I see him,” Tomlin said.

He added that he had reached out to Bills coach Sean McDermott “to lend whatever assistance I could.”

Bengals president Mike Brown said in a statement Tuesday morning that the team’s “hearts are with everyone in this unprecedented time — what we can do is support one another.”

“Last night was supposed to be a great night for the NFL and a great showcase for our hometown. Instead, the human side of our sport became paramount … and in that moment, humanity and love rose to the forefront,” Brown said in the statement. “As medical personnel undertook extraordinary measures, both teams demonstrated respect and compassion while fans in the stadium and people around the country bolstered the support for Damar and love for each other.

“The Bengals are thankful for the love and compassion shown by all. Praying for Damar.”

Hamlin, 24, had his heartbeat restored on the field after suffering cardiac arrest following a hit in the Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals, which was later postponed. CPR was administered to Hamlin on the field for multiple minutes after he collapsed following his tackle of Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin received oxygen, according to the ESPN broadcast, as he was placed in the ambulance and taken off the field some 16 minutes after he collapsed. He then was driven to the nearby University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Hamlin was selected in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft out of Pittsburgh, with the Bills taking him with the No. 212 overall pick.

He has been starting for the Bills this season in place of injured safety Micah Hyde, who has been on injured reserve since suffering a neck injury in Week 2. Hamlin entered Monday tied for the second-most tackles on the team (91), and he has one forced fumble and 1.5 sacks this year, making 13 starts.

Hamlin has a foundation, Chasing M’s, that has been raising money for a toy drive. His stated goal was $2,500, but by early Tuesday morning, donations had surged to nearly $4 million.

One of the nation’s top cornerbacks in the Class of 2016 out of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, Hamlin chose to play for Pitt over Ohio State and Penn State. He delivered, becoming a three-year starter and one of the most reliable players on a defense that required much from him at the safety position.

In his final season at Pitt in 2020, Hamlin was a second-team All-ACC selection, leading the Panthers with 67 tackles and seven pass breakups. After Hamlin was drafted, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi told WGRZ-TV: “He’s got that heart. He’s got the leadership. I mean, our entire defense revolved around him. Damar will go up there, show his skills off. I think he’s so versatile.”

After Hamlin exited the field, Bills players knelt together in a circle and then returned to the sideline, with the defense heading back on the field to resume play. Buffalo wide receiver Stefon Diggs called everyone over for a word. However, instead of resuming play, Bengals coach Zac Taylor walked over to Bills counterpart McDermott and met with the game officials present. The decision was then made to temporarily pause the game, which the Bengals were leading 7-3, before the league ultimately chose to postpone it.

Diggs and Taylor were among those who went to the hospital later Monday night, while some fans gathered outside it as well.

The majority of the Bills team remained at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati well into Monday night. The team departed shortly after midnight and returned to Buffalo.

“Our thoughts are with Damar and the Buffalo Bills. We will provide more information as it becomes available,” the league said in a statement on Monday night. “The NFL has been in constant communication with the NFL Players Association which is in agreement with postponing the game.”

The NFL Referees Association said Tuesday in a statement that they “fully support” the suspension of the game.

ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg contributed to this report.

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