NFL Makes 'Difficult, but Necessary, Decision' on Game

Meanwhile, Hamlin has reached a recovery 'turning point'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2023 7:26 AM CST
NFL Makes 'Difficult, but Necessary, Decision' on Game
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is seen before playing the Los Angeles Rams during an NFL game on Sept. 8, 2021, in Inglewood, California.   (AP Photo/John McCoy, File)

When Damar Hamlin woke up Wednesday evening after two days of sedation, the first words he wrote down to a nurse were: "Who won the game?" The 24-year-old Buffalo Bills safety was referring to the matchup Monday night between his team and the Cincinnati Bengals where he'd collapsed on the field after suffering a cardiac arrest, leading to the game's suspension. Hamlin's question will now never be answered: The NFL has announced that the game, which stopped with the Bengals up 7-3 during the first quarter, won't be rescheduled, reports NBC News. In a Thursday statement, the league noted it came to its decision based on several factors, including that the game wouldn't have made a difference for any team in the league in terms of making or missing the playoffs.

Rescheduling the game would also push back the playoffs, currently set to start the weekend of Jan. 14-15, by a week, which would affect all the teams competing. The league concedes that nixing the game from the season "creates potential competitive inequities in certain playoff scenarios," noting it plans on convening a special meeting on Friday where mitigations will be discussed, perhaps involving playing the Jan. 29 AFC championship game at a neutral site "if the participating teams played an unequal number of games and both could have been the number one seed and hosted the game."

"I recognize that there is no perfect solution," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says in the league's statement, noting the "difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game under these extraordinary circumstances." In better news, Hamlin has shown "remarkable improvement" since he was hospitalized, with doctors at University of Cincinnati Medical Center saying he's reached a "turning point" in his recovery, per the New York Times.

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In a Thursday presser, Dr. William Knight and Dr. Timothy Pritts announced Hamlin is able to communicate by shaking and nodding his head, as well as by writing on a notepad. He's also been able to follow commands. That's a great sign for how his brain is doing after his cardiac incident, though doctors warn he still has a way to go: He remains in critical condition in the ICU, still lightly sedated and on a ventilator, and it's not yet clear how much his other organs, including his lungs, have been affected. Doctors say it's still too early to say if and when Hamlin will be able to return to playing football. (More Damar Hamlin stories.)

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