Monday night is still a fresh wound for Damar Hamlin’s family, friends, and the players and coaches who witnessed what transpired on the field, not to mention the 65,000 fans in the stadium. In the 36 hours since Hamlin collapsed due to cardiac arrest, the second-year safety has since been under intense care and sedation at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. While his condition seems to have improved according to reports, the battle is not over.
Head coaches Zac Taylor and Sean McDermott’s handling of the unprecedented situation has rightfully received praise. While both teams were coping with Hamlin being taken off the field in an ambulance, Taylor on his own accord discussed personally with McDermott about how to proceed upon seeing the concern expressed on every player’s face. All it took was one sentence from McDermott to know what needed to be done.
“I need to be at the hospital with Damar.”
There was never going to be a game after that.
While Taylor clarified he “didn’t feel any directive” for his players to start warming up during a reported “five-minute break,” he expanded on much more during his first media appearance since Monday.
Cincinnati’s head coach opened by commending everyone that was involved in responding to Hamlin’s cardiac arrest for several minutes, including the trainers, medical staff, referees, and UCMC.
“They were on it. They were composed,” Taylor said. “I was led to believe it was going to be positive because of how they handled (on the field).”
It was what he saw afterwards that ultimately put the game in the rearview mirror. Taylor emphasized the word “unprecedented” for appropriate reasons.
“You could see the reaction and how they were impacted,” Taylor said. “You could quickly see it was different than anything we had experienced. No one was processing if the game would be delayed...that never crossed our minds.”
While Taylor’s leadership on the field was visible to all, the leadership of his captains inside the stadium filled him with assurance.
“Our captains came down the hallway at me,” Taylor said. “They told me they wanted to speak to their captains on the Bills. I wasn’t sure how to take that information, I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was. I told that to Sean, Sean went and got his captains. When you saw both those groups interacting, you immediately knew that was the right decision.”
Joe Burrow was, reportedly, the captain who came up with the idea for the Bengals.
Perhaps the best quote from Taylor was in regards to his overall message to the team.
“You do have to move forward as a team because there is a game Sunday, but at the same time, you don’t have to move past the situation that matters and supporting Damar Hamlin’s recovery.”
Per Taylor, the only focus is on the Baltimore game, indicating there’s been no update regarding if Monday’s game will be resumed or replayed in the future.
Finally, Taylor was asked about Tee Higgins, who collided with Hamlin on the play.
“Tee has handled it well. My communication with him is that he’s OK.”
Higgins’ mental state can’t be overlooked. To be directly involved in the situation would have a huge impact on anyone. Hamlin’s family has stated that Higgins has reached out multiple times and urges any criticism directed at him to stop.
Select Bengals players will talk with the media after Wednesday’s practice. You can watch Taylor’s full presser below.