Family of Bills’ Hamlin thanks supporters, asks for prayers

Candles are placed in front of a sign that reads

Fans place a sign and candles outside the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, early Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, in Cincinnati, where Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin was taken after collapsing on the field during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

The family of Damar Hamlin expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support shown toward the Buffalo Bills safety who suffered cardiac arrest after making a tackle while asking everyone to keep the hospitalized player in their prayers on Tuesday.

“We are deeply moved by the prayers, kind words and donations from fans around the country,” Hamlin’s family wrote in a message posted on the Twitter account of the player’s marketing representative, Jordon Rooney. “Your generosity and compassion has meant the world to us.”

The family also thanked the first responders, medical staff at UC Medical Center, the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals for their support.

The 24-year-old Hamlin remained in critical condition a day after the Bills said his heart stopped while making a tackle in the opening quarter of a game against the Bengals. Medical staff restored his heartbeat during frantic moments on the field before he was loaded into an ambulance, with teary-eyed players and coaches on both teams having difficulty hiding their emotions.

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“First and foremost, the Bengals continue to send thoughts and prayers to Damar Hamlin and his family. Our hearts are with everyone in this unprecedented time — what we can do is support one another,” Bengals president Mike Brown said in a statement released by the team.

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

Hamlin was hurt while tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins on a seemingly routine play that didn’t appear unusually violent. Hamlin was administered CPR on the field and was joined in the ambulance by his mother before leaving for the hospital.

As the second-year Bills player lay sedated in a hospital bed with his family by his side, Hamlin’s competitive and giving spirit has not been lost on those who know him.

“All I can say is he’s fighting. He’s a fighter,” Rooney told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “The family is in good spirits. We’re obviously just taking it minute by minute, hour by hour.”

The chilling scene, which played out in front of a national television audience on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” has put the NFL on hold, with the game suspended. It sparked an outpouring of support for placing Hamlin’s life ahead of sports and pushed to the forefront the generous person the player is.

“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,” said Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who has known Hamlin since he was 12. “To watch him make personal decisions and make that a realization, it’s just an honor to get to know young people like that. Had an opportunity to express that to him whenever I’ve seen him.”

Hamlin’s teammates also rallied to his support.

“Demar Hamlin is a kind caring extremely hard worker. He is loyal honest and can always put a smile on your face,” Bills offensive lineman Rodger Saffold wrote in a Twitter post. “He is more than an athlete, he is a son and brother. I pray God gives him mercy and brings him back to us.”

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Numerous NFL teams canceled their media availabilities on Tuesday, including the New England Patriots, who are scheduled to travel to Buffalo for both teams’ season finales on Sunday. The NFL’s schedule is now in flux after the game between Buffalo (12-3) and Cincinnati (11-3) — a showdown with AFC playoff race implications — was postponed indefinitely.

It’s unclear how the league will juggle its schedule to accommodate the Bills and Bengals. Both playoff-bound teams are supposed to play two games, including Monday night’s, before the postseason is set to open on Jan. 14.

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