Hamlin making remarkable progress after on-field collapse, if only we could say same about NFL

New York Daily News editorial board (TNS)

“Did we win?”

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin had to have known he was in bad shape when he finally regained consciousness two days after collapsing and suffering cardiac arrest during a nationally-televised Monday Night Football game in Cincinnati.

But his first question to the medical staff who kept Hamlin’s heart pumping was about the outcome of the game.

He scribbled his question on a piece of paper because a breathing tube was still in his mouth.

“Did we win?”

Detail view of the video board honoring Damar Hamlin (3) of the Buffalo Bills prior to the game between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images/TNS)

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The short answer is this: Yes, we all won, because Hamlin, 24, is still alive.

And there are plenty of winners to go around.

Let’s start with the medical professionals whose rapid response on the field of play was the ultimate game changer.

And how about the players — from both teams — who formed a human cocoon to shield Hamlin, the trainers and first responders from the prying eyes of the crowd and TV audience?

The fans scored big, too, especially the ones — again, from both teams — who left Paycor Stadium and went straight to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and held a vigil for Hamlin.

The broadcasters scored some points, too, for avoiding speculation, promoting sensitivity and resisting the temptation to keep showing Hamlin’s collapse.

But there were some losers, too, and they included anyone who tried to blame Cincinnati Bengals wideout Tee Higgins, whose seemingly routine collision with Hamlin led to the collapse.

Higgins was just as traumatized by the incident as any other player.

“Obviously it’s been hard just because I had something to do with it,” Higgins said Thursday. “Everybody’s been making me feel whole again, and I talked to his mom and everything’s OK – he’s doing good, so I’m in a good place right now.”

But the biggest loser has to be the NFL, which, according to early reports, was still strategizing on how to complete the game even as Hamlin lay near the 50 yard line receiving CPR.

The league ultimately decided to suspend the game, but not before the PR damage was done.

If the NFL is interested in saving face after the fumble, the league has to start by reducing the dangers to its players.

One way is to cut back on the number of games they play, including during the preseason. They’ll likely grumble about lost revenue, but they can find other ways to make it up.

It’s the cost of doing business.

Teams should also consider having their players wear the protective guardian caps, the soft-shell, padded covering that goes on the outside of the regular NFL helmets.

Right now, teams only wear the added gear during practice, but not during games.

According to the NFL, guardian caps reduce the impact of a collision by at least 10% when one player is wearing the protective gear and at least 20% when both players are.

By Thursday, Hamlin was breathing on his own and speaking to family, physicians and teammates, remarkable progress considering his condition on the field.

“Love you boys,” Hamlin told his teammates during a FaceTime session.

The feeling was mutual.

Thankfully, there has been little discussion about when or if the Bills safety can suit up again.

But before he, or anyone else for that matter, takes the field again, the NFL should consider changing the name of the position Hamlin plays.

There’s nothing safe about it.

— From the New York Daily News editorial board (TNS).