When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field due to cardiac arrest in the first half of the Bills’ matchup vs. the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night, concern was the only thing on most observers’ minds. In the days following one of the most horrific moments in football history, it’s been difficult to determine what comes next for the NFL.
We know the game won’t be replayed this week, and the league schedule will go on as planned on Saturday and Sunday. That means on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time, the Kansas City Chiefs will play the Las Vegas Raiders in what will be the NFL’s first game since the moment that Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid described as a “kick in the gut.”
“I felt just like everybody else did,” Reid told the media on Wednesday. “It’s terrible. I’m just glad he’s making progress from what I’ve gathered like you have — we’re all listening. Sounds like he’s making progress, so that’s the most important thing.”
Reid is known for being a creature of habit, and the Chiefs’ schedule rarely deviates at all from one week to the next. But he admitted that turning the page to the football game will be easier said than done.
“What we’ve done is we’ve tried to put our focus in on taking care of when we’re doing the football part, taking care of the football part,” Reid said. “I think it was difficult that night and the morning, but there are some positive reports that came out, and we’re pulling that direction. We’re trying to take a positive outlook on it the best we can in this situation. And the fact that he, Damar, is making some improvements is great.
“(He’s) a strong kid. We’re pulling that he pulls all the way through it.”
Patrick Mahomes explained that while he knows he has a job to do, Hamlin’s health has been and will continue to be on his mind.
“You put all this work in for months to try to go out there and play your best football,” Mahomes said. “But when you get on that field I’m sure it’ll be a little bit of a weird feeling because it was such a scary incident that was terrifying that I think everybody saw and so we’ll see when we get out there, but I know our guys will just get out there and hopefully when we get to playing the game again it can be fun and everybody can enjoy it like we have our whole lives.”
Communication has been paramount at Arrowhead over the past 48 hours. Tuesday’s first team meeting began with a group prayer for Hamlin. Players were reminded of their access to mental health professionals if necessary.
“Just to know that there’s help for them if they need to talk to somebody, that we’re available,” Reid said. “Whether it’s religiously, psychologically, we’ve got all the tools plus the league has tools to help you through that. And coaches, we’re here the same way, so if a player were to need help or the coach needs help, it’s there for them, too.”
The league announced rather promptly that the Week 18 slate of games would go on as scheduled, but some speculated if the league should put the schedule on pause.
“It’s hard for me to say,” Mahomes answered when asked if he thought the Chiefs should play on Saturday. “When it’s not something that I can control it, either way, all I can do is come in here and give it everything I have in the building and then when I go home just appreciate my family. I know there’s a job to do, and you have to go in there and do it.”
Once the ball is kicked off in Las Vegas on Saturday, it’s likely Mahomes will continue to look like an MVP and the Chiefs will continue to look like one of the best teams in football. But the events from Monday night may provide the players on the field with some new perspective.
“At the end of the day, you want to make sure he’s alright because that’s what’s most important,” Mahomes continued. “It’s a game that we all love and that we all put everything that we have into, but it’s a game at the end of the day.”