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NFL pauses in deference to Bills safety Damar Hamlin

The Buffalo Bills gather while CPR is administered to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) after a play in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals.

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An indefinite pause marked the day after as the NFL focused its attention on Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin.

Hamlin, 24, collapsed due to cardiac arrest and required life-saving CPR on the turf in the middle of the first quarter Monday night and was transported to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Hamlin’s family issued a statement Tuesday.

“On behalf of our family, we want to express our sincere gratitude for the love and support shown to Damar during this challenging time. We are deeply moved by the prayers, kind words, and donations from fans around the country. We also want to acknowledge the dedicated first responders and healthcare professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who have provided exceptional care to Damar. We feel so blessed to be part of the Buffalo Bills organization and to have their support. We also want to thank Coach (Zac) Taylor and the Bengals for everything they’ve done.

“Your generosity and compassion mean the world to us. Please keep Damar in your prayers. We will release updates as soon as we have them.”

Hamlin remained in critical condition on Tuesday, ESPN and NFL Network reported.

Other NFL teams took a step back from cameras and microphones on Tuesday, matching the league and NFLPA decision to stop play Monday night.

Hamlin briefly came to his feet after tackling Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, then collapsed with 5:58 left in the first quarter.

“Monday Night Football” play-by-play announcer Joe Buck said NFL officials informed teams the game would resume in five minutes after live shots of the ambulance in the tunnel underneath the stadium aired on the national broadcast.

“They’ve been given five minutes to quote-unquote to get ready to go back to playing, that’s the word we get from the league,” Buck said Monday.

NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent, a former NFL defensive back, said that message was never relayed by the NFL.

“We never, frankly, it never crossed our mind to talk about warming up to resume play,” Vincent said.

The postponement of the final game of Week 17 between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals didn’t resume after head coaches Taylor and Sean McDermott determined their teams should exit the field. McDermott huddled Buffalo players and coaches near the sideline and relayed a message from bended knee before Taylor crossed the field from the Bengals’ sideline.

Bengals owner Mike Brown released a statement Tuesday morning.

“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. Last night was supposed to be a great night for the NFL and a great showcase for our hometown. Instead, the human side of our sport became paramount … and in that moment, humanity and love rose to the forefront. 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. The Bengals are thankful for the love and compassion shown by all. Praying for Damar.”

The NFL Referees Association said Tuesday “our officials fully supported the suspension of this game as all attention needed to be focused on Damar’s health.”

Commissioner Roger Goodell is granted sole discretion on the resumption of the game, according to the NFL rulebook.

Both teams are still in contention for the top seed in the AFC, which brings home-field advantage and a first-round bye.

It is unclear how long the NFL will delay business as usual. But it was evident Tuesday that all teams were following the lead of McDermott and Taylor.

Multiple teams — the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, among them — called off media availability with coordinators and assistant coaches.

Tuesday is the scheduled off day for players. Most teams are scheduled to have practice and media access on Wednesday.

The next scheduled game is Saturday in Las Vegas between the Raiders and Denver Broncos.

Sunday’s schedule includes a “TBD” for the Bengals-Ravens game that could decide the AFC North division. The kickoff time was to be set based on the outcome of Monday’s postponed game.

–Field Level Media