Damar Hamlin's family releases statement: 'Please keep Damar in your prayers'

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Damar Hamlin's family releases statement originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Damar Hamlin's family reportedly released a statement Tuesday morning as the Buffalo Bills safety remained hospitalized after going into cardiac arrest during Monday night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In a statement first reported by Jordon Rooney, who is described as Hamlin's friend and marketing rep, Hamlin's family thanked fans and players "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 statement read. "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 have their support."

The family also thanked Bengals coach Zac Taylor and the Cincinnati team "for everything they've done."

The statement offered no further updates on Hamlin's condition, only asking for supporters to "please keep Damar in your prayers" and promising additional details "as soon as we have them."

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Hamlin collapsed on the field during the Bills-Bengals game Monday night and was immediately rushed to an area hospital, prompting the pivotal NFL game to be postponed.

According to the team's statement, released just before 1 a.m. CT., Hamlin "suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit" during the game.

“His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment,” the statement read. “He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.”

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No further updates on Hamlin's condition were released Tuesday morning, but a vigil began to grow outside the hospital facility where he was being treated, with candles dancing in the dark and signs reading, "Pray for Hamlin," with his No. 3.

The rest of the Bills players and coaches have since returned to Buffalo.

Here's what we know so far:

What happened to Hamlin?

The 6-foot-tall, 200-pound Hamlin was injured while tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins on a seemingly routine play that didn’t appear unusually violent.

Higgins was running with the ball on a 13-yard pass from Joe Burrow when he led with his right shoulder, hitting Hamlin in the chest. Hamlin then wrapped his arms around Higgins’ shoulders and helmet to drag him down. Hamlin quickly got to his feet, appeared to adjust his face mask with his right hand, and then fell backward about three seconds later and lay motionless. The collapse occurred at 8:55 p.m.

In a chilling scene, CPR was administered on the field to the 24-year-old Hamlin for nearly 10 minutes, ESPN reported during the broadcast. Teammates surrounded Hamlin, shielding him from public view. Many were weeping and praying while Hamlin was treated on the field by team and independent medical personnel and local paramedics.

His uniform was cut off as he was attended to by medical personnel. ESPN reported on its telecast that Hamlin was also given oxygen.

“I’ve never seen anything like it since I was playing,” NFL executive Troy Vincent, a six-time Pro Bowl cornerback during his career, said in the conference call early Tuesday morning. “Immediately, my player hat went on, like, how do you resume playing after seeing a traumatic event in front of you?”

He was then taken by ambulance to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Shortly after the ambulance left the field, the NFL had announced it had suspended the game.

What is the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack?

Although a heart attack and cardiac arrest both involve a destabilization of the heart, and they may look similar to a lay person. But they are very different and should be treated differently, according to the American Heart Association.

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart is blocked, often due to a blockage in a coronary artery. A heart attack is often occurring alongside chest pain.

Cardiac arrest occurs when there is a sudden disruption to the electrical malfunction in the heart, which causes the heart to be unable to pump oxygen to the brain, lungs and other parts of the body. A person experiencing sudden cardiac arrest will collapse and not have a pulse.

Who is Damar Hamlin?

Hamlin spent five years of college at Pittsburgh — his hometown — and appeared in 48 games for the Panthers over that span. He was a second-team All-ACC performer as a senior, was voted a team captain and was picked to play in the Senior Bowl.

Drafted in the sixth round by the Bills in 2021, Hamlin played in 14 games as a rookie and then became a starter this season after Micah Hyde was injured.

In 2020, Hamlin began organizing an annual Christmas toy drive in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pa. By early Tuesday, a community toy drive organized by Hamlin had surged to more than $3.1 million in donations. His stated goal was $2,500.

Bills offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, in a post on Twitter, described Hamlin as a “kind, caring, extremely hard worker.” Saffold wrote that Hamlin is “loyal, honest and can always put a smile on your face. He is more than an athlete, he is a son and brother.”

What's next for the NFL after the Damar Hamlin injury?

The Bills returned early Tuesday morning to the team facility in Orchard Park, New York, with the exception of a few players who stayed behind with Hamlin.

There was a heavy police presence at Buffalo Niagara International Airport when the team arrived at about 2:45 a.m. A small group of fans gathered across the street from the players’ parking area near the airport. Police blocked off the road to allow the players to leave.

The Bengals led 7-3 in the first quarter of a game between teams vying for the top playoff seed in the AFC. Cincinnati entered at 11-4 and leading the AFC North by one game over Baltimore, while AFC East champion Buffalo was 12-3.

“The NFLPA and everyone in our community is praying for Damar Hamlin,” the players’ union said in a statement. “We have been in touch with Bills and Bengals players, and with the NFL. The only thing that matters at this moment is Damar’s health and well being.”

The unfinished game has major playoff implications as the NFL enters the final week of the regular season, with the wild-card playoff round scheduled to begin on Jan. 14. Both teams are battling for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Bills (12-3) entered the game in the top spot while the Bengals (11-4) had a chance to clinch the AFC North with a victory and also were in the mix for the No. 1 seed along with Kansas City (13-3).

Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, said during a conference call shortly after midnight that a time frame for resuming the game was not being considered at the time.

“Our concern is for the player and his well-being. At the appropriate time, I’m sure that we’ll have a conversation around the next steps regarding the game,” Miller said.

The NFL is entering the final week of the regular season and the playoffs are scheduled to begin Jan. 14.