Rather than respond to instruction to get his team ready to resume play Monday night, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor walked to the visiting sideline to console Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott.
“When I got over there, the first thing he said was, ‘I need to be at the hospital with Damar, and I shouldn’t be coaching this game,'” McDermott told Taylor, according to the Bengals’ coach.
Taylor spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field in the first quarter of Monday’s game.
Emotions were heavy throughout the stadium, with silence on both sidelines.
Hamlin, resuscitated on the field, received chest compressions and a defibrillator was required to restore his heartbeat. He collapsed with 5:58 left in the first quarter following an open-field tackle of Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins.
Taylor said he hopes credit is given to the medical response, including team trainers and doctors on both sides and other personnel.
“They were on it. They were composed. It was a complicated situation everyone was trying to process,” Taylor said. “Seeing the composure … they were prepared.”
An ambulance drove onto the field to transport Hamlin two miles to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
TV broadcaster Joe Buck, on the call for the simulcast with ESPN and ABC, said on the air that he was told the NFL planned to resume the game in a matter of minutes. While the NFL refuted the league delivered any message about resuming play, ESPN said it stood by the reporting from its crew.
Taylor said the game officials recognized the gravity of the situation, and the need to separate the teams, in real-time.
“The officials kind of led the way there,” Taylor said. “I looked at Sean and his players and all they were doing is looking at their teammate, their brother, hoping for the best. That’s the only thing going through their minds.”
Taylor recalled the facial expression of Bills safety Jordan Poyer and quarterback Josh Allen processing “how awful the situation was.”
“Instead of playing telephone on separate sidelines, the decision was made just to go over there (to the Bills’ sideline),” Taylor said. “Unprecedented is the word that gets thrown out a lot about this situation because that’s what it is. In that moment, (McDemott) showed who he is. Just focus on Damar, being there with him, being there with his family.”
Cincinnati is scheduled to host a game on the same field Sunday, playing AFC North division rival Baltimore, and the Bengals remain unclear about any plans to resume the game postponed Monday.
“Vinny Rey, our team chaplain, has helped with his messaging. One of the things I’ve taken from that is move forward as a team. We do have a game Sunday,” Taylor said. “At the same time, you don’t have to move past the situation that’s happening now, and supporting Damar Hamlin’s recovery.”
–Field Level Media