Damar Hamlin: The story so far
Josh Werle, Sports Editor
With two weeks remaining in the National Football League (NFL) season, two of the top American Football Conference (AFC) teams and potential Super Bowl contenders were set to square off. Although the game didn’t have any potential playoff implications for the squads, the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills were to engage in a matchup for the ages.
Fans were questioning whether the outcome of this game would impact the betting lines for the Super Bowl championship, as the winner would have been seen as a clear contender. Josh Allen and the Bills reign atop the AFC East division, while Joe Burrow and the Bengals reign atop the AFC North division. The excitement amongst the NFL community quickly turned into tragedy. With only six minutes remaining in the first quarter of the football game, 24-year-old Safety, Damar Hamlin, collapsed on the field after making a tackle.
Hamlin grew up in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, later attending high school in Pittsburgh. He was a highly touted player throughout his high school career, earning himself the designation of a four-star recruit. Hamlin received offers from multiple prestigious institutions to continue his football career after high school, and ultimately settled on the University of Pittsburgh. He played football at the university level for four years from 2016-2020, eventually making it to the coveted NFL draft in 2021. After being selected in the sixth round at pick number 212 by the Buffalo Bills, Hamlin signed a four-year rookie contract and his NFL career began.
As a rookie, Hamlin played 14 games for the Bills, none of which he started. He only recorded two tackles in 2021, and had yet to be a breakout player for a team that already has one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. As the 2022 season began, injuries opened up a free slot on the Bills’ starting defensive unit, and Hamlin got the call. He’s played 15 games this season, of which he started 13 of them. During this time, Hamlin has amassed 91 tackles, 54 of which were solo efforts. At the time of writing, he is tied for second on the entire team for number of tackles this season.
The Bills and Bengals were set to square off in a week 17 matchup that would see two teams at the top of their game go head-to-head. For Hamlin and the rest of Buffalo’s defensive lineup, this meant a matchup against star quarterback and 2022 Super Bowl competitor Joe Burrow. The stakes were high, and all eyes were on this battle of AFC leaders. After making a routine tackle, Hamlin collapsed on the field. Every NFL team is required to have an emergency action plan, which Buffalo’s medical staff were forced to use in this instance. An ambulance arrived on the football field in less than five minutes, and after CPR was provided, Hamlin was rushed to the hospital.
The road ahead
The Bills and Bengals game was temporarily suspended after the ambulance arrived on scene, but that suspension ended up becoming permanent in the moments and days to follow. The game was officially postponed indefinitely after Hamlin was taken off the field.
Days later, it was announced that these teams would not play another game, as the impact on the rest of the season was virtually non-existent with both teams reigning atop their divisions.
At the time of writing, Hamlin has begun his recovery process. His breathing tube has now been removed, and neurological function remains intact. Hamlin has even posted on social media, thanking fans for their prayers and support in an Instagram post. At this time, there are many positive signs that Hamlin will continue to recover. An incident like this is unprecedented and rare, and has certainly impacted both the NFL and larger sports communities. As impactful as this matchup between these teams was, at the end of the day, the health and wellbeing of the athletes is always the top priority.