Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/AP
GPB's Jon Nelson on NFL player Damar Hamlin's tragic collapse
LISTEN: GPB's Jon Nelson speaks with Peter Biello about NFL player Damar Hamlin's tragic Jan. 2 collapse during a game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin remains hospitalized in Cincinnati following his collapse Monday night during an NFL football game against the Bengals. The Bills say he had a cardiac arrest after making a tackle.
Hamlin's family is expressing gratitude for the outpouring of support shown toward him after the on-field emergency. Such a devastating injury may have consequences for the entire NFL and reverberate even further.
For more context, we turn to GPB's Jon Nelson, veteran sportscaster and journalist who covers high school football for GPB Sports.
Peter Biello: What's the context here? Have we seen something like this on an NFL football field before?
Jon Nelson: The closest was back in 1971, and it was a player for the Detroit Lions who passed on the field, Chuck Hughes, who was the only player to die in a game, and it was later diagnosed that he basically had a heart attack on the field. And he was — they tried to revive him short of an hour and it didn't quite work. And so Chuck Hughes is the only player to have passed playing an NFL game. But it wasn't from contact or anything like we saw last night. It literally was diagnosed as a massive — as a massive heart attack that he had there on the field. That's the closest thing we've ever had.
Peter Biello: We should note that the Damar Hamlin has not passed away. He was listed most recently in critical condition on Tuesday morning. We're still waiting for updates on his condition. What does this say about the mental health concerns for people who have been watching something like this? The players formed a circle around Damar Hamlin and a lot of players were visibly shaken by this. And normally when a player is injured, even severely injured, the game resumes. But that didn't happen this time. What does this say about how the NFL is thinking about how people feel about what they see?
Jon Nelson: You look at how the two coaches responded. It was announced multiple times on the three networks that covered the game that the NFL was going to give a five-minute warm-up period and then the players were supposed to go out there and play. But then you had the two coaches for the Bills and the Bengals have a bit of a meeting themselves. And then the players just had a quick conversation. Players leave the field, they go into their locker rooms and they're trying to get as much information as possible and be there for each other out of the spotlight that was there for the TV and the radio cameras. And the first person naturally that I thought of was Tee Higgins, the wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, who was basically trying to avoid being tackled and avoid a negative ending to his play. And he's the one who lowers his shoulder into the chest cavity of Damar Hamlin. And that was the end of the play, which looked fairly normal, like we see on a football field.
Peter Biello: Hits like the one that really harmed Damar Hamlin are fairly common in NFL games; big guys slamming into other big guys. Is this going to bring the conversation about violence in the game and injuries in the game to a different level? Will the NFL respond to this differently than it has responded to other accusations that the game is just too hard on the bodies of these men?
Jon Nelson: I don't think the NFL's going to respond any differently. I think that what you may see is like we've like we have seen in other sports, where this particular ventricular fibrillation has happened to athletes. This is traditionally associated with younger people, I mean, like teenagers and lower. And they have created in baseball and in lacrosse, the two sports that are normally associated with it, protective devices for chest cavities. You may see that. Something attached to the underside of shoulder pads or something like that. I don't think you're going to see a massive sea change in how the game is played or administered. But you may see, you know, some additional protective devices, things like that. Nothing too far out of the ordinary because this literally — as anybody who saw it, it looked like a normal play. And it was just this particular instance where if you hit the human body in a certain place in a certain way, that you're going to get that kind of a reverberation and you're going to have what happened to Damar Hamlin. And I don't I don't see it as much of a sea change, maybe a little more protection. That's about it.