Monday Night Football was postponed during a live NFL game for the first time in history after a player’s heart stopped in the middle of the first quarter after a play.
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is in critical condition, after collapsing on the field during the final game of Week 17.
On a second-and-3 yard play, the 24-year-old safety tackled Cincinnati Bengals star wide receiver Tee Higgins after he caught a 13 yard pass thrown by Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
Higgins helmet appeared to collide with Hamlin’s chest during the hit. The safety quickly got to his feet after making the tackle, but immediately collapsed following the play at 8:55 p.m.
Medical personnel immediately responded to the aid of the defensive player as ESPN cut to commercial.
He was reportedly down on the field for 30 minutes as paramedics worked to resuscitate Hamlin after his heart stopped.
Bills players closed ranks around their fallen teammate, so that cameras were unable to capture first responders administering repeated CPR and using an automated external defibrillator.
Players from both teams were seen crying and praying as Hamlin was carted off the field in an ambulance at 9:25 p.m.
He was taken from the Bengals Paycor Stadium and transported to local University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the only level 1 trauma center in the region, for treatment.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was taken to the same trauma center this year, when he was concussed during a Thursday Night Football game against the Bengals in September.
Monday night’s game was temporarily suspended when Hamlin was driven off the field. The teams were originally given a five minute period to get warmed back up and resume the game.
As the clock wore down, wideout Stefon Diggs attempted to rouse the Bills with a speech, but neither team seemed willing to restart.
“How do you as a member of the Buffalo Bills or the Cincinnati Bengals continue on … to play this game?” ESPN announcer Joe Buck questioned.
“They won’t be willing to go back onto the field until they know he’s OK,” replied Troy Aikman.
“I just don’t know how any of these players can come out and play football tonight.”
Both team’s coaches, Sean McDermott and Zac Taylor, were seen speaking to the referees before it was announced that the game was suspended “until further notification.”
The Bills gathered in a prayer on the field, before both teams departed to the locker room. An hour after the tragic injury, the game was ultimately cancelled until further notice.
The game was stopped with 5:58 to go in the first quarter, on the heels of a touchdown by Bengals that brought the score to 7-3.
“Tonight’s Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game has been postponed after Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin collapsed, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced,” the league announced.
“Hamlin received immediate medical attention on the field by team and independent medical staff and local paramedics. He was then transported to a local hospital where he is in critical condition.”
The Monday Night Football match-up is the first game in the history of the league to be postponed during live play.
Games have been suspended in the past due to player’s strikes, owners’ lockouts, weather, natural disasters, unsafe field conditions, the September 11 attacks in 2001, and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, all of the games were delayed or cancelled prior to kickoff, so it’s unclear how the league will handle rescheduling an active game that both teams had already scored in.
Despite both teams already going to the Playoffs, Monday night’s Bills-Bengals game will determine the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
For the Bills to clinch the conference, they need to beat the Bengals and win against the New England Patriots next Sunday.
It’s a tougher road for the Bengals, who need to beat the Bills and the Baltimore Ravens next week, while also depending on the Las Vegas Raiders to take out the Kansas City Chiefs.
Even if they don’t take the No. 1 seed, the Bengals can still clinch the AFC North title if they beat the Bills or the Ravens.
“Our thoughts are with Damar and the Buffalo Bills. We will provide more information as it becomes available,” the league said in a statement. “The NFL has been in constant communication with the NFL Players Association which is in agreement with postponing the game.”
Hamlin’s marketing representative, Jordan Rooney, gave an update on his client’s health on Monday night.
“His vitals are back to normal and they have put him to sleep to put a breathing tube down his throat,” he tweeted. “They are currently running tests.”
Teammate Stefon Diggs reportedly joined Hamlin at the hospital, but was initially stopped from entering by law enforcement.
ESPN reporter Coley Harvey explained who Diggs was, and the officer let him enter the building.
Hamlin is a second-year player, who was drafted out of University of Pittsburgh in the sixth round of the 2021 draft.
He was a reserve player his first year, appearing in 14 games during the 2021 season, but became a starting safety for the Bills in 2022, when Micah Hyde was knocked out for the season during Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans.