Family of Bills’ Hamlin Thanks Supporters, Asks for Prayers

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
January 3, 2023Sportsshare
Family of Bills’ Hamlin Thanks Supporters, Asks for Prayers
Safety Damar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills walks off the field at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Dec. 1, 2022. (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

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 Bills announced that the 24-year-old Hamlin spent the night in intensive care and remained in critical condition a day after 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.

“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.

prayer attendees
A woman prays during a prayer service for Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin at Crossroads Uptown Church in Cincinnati on Jan. 3, 2023. (Darron Cummings/AP Photo)

“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.

“Damar 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.”

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.

The league announced Tuesday that Commissioner Roger Goodell informed both teams that their game would not resume this week. No decision has been made on whether it will be played at a later date, with the league not making any changes to its Week 18 schedule.

Both playoff-bound teams were supposed to play two games, including completing Monday night’s, before the postseason is set to open on Jan. 14.

Hamlin is from McKees Rocks, a hard-scrabble exurb of Pittsburgh, and was selected by Buffalo in the sixth-round of the 2021 draft out of Pitt. He spent his rookie season limited to playing special teams roles, and took over the starting job in Week 3 in place of veteran Micah Hyde, who remains sidelined by a neck injury.

Overnight, Hamlin went from being a relatively unknown backup to the forefront of an international outpouring of support, including fans of all teams.

Hamlin’s charitable foundation “Chasing M’s”—the M stands for millions—eclipsed its modest goal of raising $2,500 to more than $4 million by Tuesday afternoon. Hamlin established the foundation when he was in his senior year at Pitt, to help those such as him in pursuing their dreams.

Bills and Bengals fans gathered at the hospital following the postponement of the game, with many returning on Tuesday.

Elena Weiler, 33, from Amelia, Ohio, and Billy Jeffers held a sign that said “Pray for Hamlin 3” with candles in front.

“It don’t matter if you’re a Bengals fan or a Bills fan, we’re here to show our support,” said Jeffers, wearing a Bengals sweatshirt.

Jill Kelly, the wife of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, announced a prayer vigil would be held later Tuesday outside the team’s stadium.

In Cincinnati, more than 40 people attended a prayer service at Crossroads Community Church.

“We’re all very struck, and I guess stupefied is the best way of saying, how did we see what we saw last night,” senior pastor Brian Tome said. “We were brothers and sisters in humanity long before we were football fans and this is something that hurts all of us. … Prayer is significant. It moves. It isn’t a guarantee.”

By John Wawrow

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