Damar Hamlin’s collapse on the field on Monday Night Football shook the sports world, as the 24-year-old defensive back went into cardiac arrest and needed CPR on the field to have his heartbeat restored. Hamlin remains in critical condition at UC Medical Center and the league has confirmed the game will not be resumed this week, as the Bills returned to Buffalo and the NFL world as a whole tries to deal with the emotional toll of the situation.
Initially, while Hamlin remained on the field it was reported on the ESPN broadcast by former official John Parry that the league had told teams they would have a 5-minute warmup period to get ready to resume play. From there, the two coaches met again with the officials and it was eventually determined that the game would be suspended temporarily (and ultimately postponed) as both teams would go back to the locker room, with Joe Buck noting multiple times it was a shift from the initial plan to resume play.
NFL EVP of football operations Troy Vincent was asked about the plan to resume play and the 5-minute warmup report on a Tuesday morning conference call and vehemently denied that ever crossed the league’s mind (via Pro Football Talk).
“I’m not sure where that came from,” Vincent said. “Frankly, there was no time period for the players to get warmed up. Frankly, the only thing that we asked was that [referee] Shawn [Smith] communicate with both head coaches to make sure they had the proper time inside the locker room to discuss what they felt like was best.
“So I’m not sure where that came from. Five-minute warmup never crossed my mind, personally. And I was the one…that was communicating with the Commissioner. We never, frankly, it never crossed our mind to talk about warming up to resume play. That’s ridiculous. That’s insensitive. And that’s not a place that we should ever be in.”
However, ESPN and Joe Buck each stood behind that being what they were relayed by the league, as John Parry was in communication with the league office and was the one who initially made that statement on air, before it was repeated by Buck, as he told Andrew Marchand of the New York Post.
After Hamlin was taken to the hospital, there was a point when Buck said on the air that the teams were told they would have five minutes to warm-up. The information about the game resuming, Buck said, came from ESPN’s rules expert John Parry, who was in direct communication with the league. (NFL EVP Troy Vincent later denied the NFL was going to resume the game, but did not say anything in real time). ESPN showed Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow throwing as if he expected the game to continue.
“They said they’re going to give five minutes of a warm-up to these players to get ready,” Buck said via phone.
ESPN backed Buck’s statement up, stating there was no speculation on air and they were relaying information as it came in and changed throughout the situation.
Buck wasn’t the only one that relayed the 5-minute warmup information, as it was likewise stated on ESPN Deportes and by Rich Eisen on the Westwood One radio call.
The “the league will give them five minutes to warm up” report was also made separately on ESPN Deportes and on Westwood One radio: pic.twitter.com/kQC0igFNKZ
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 3, 2023
It’s quite possible that these broadcasts were following the lead of the main ESPN feed, and it’s also possible that those at the very top of the league were not discussing a return to play. If Parry was in contact with someone further down the hierarchy of the league office, they might have been simply relaying the protocol for a lengthy delay, without knowing that Goodell, Vincent, and the teams were discussing a longer stoppage and suspension of play.
That said, the video of Burrow warming up certainly seems to indicate the initial report was correct and further discussion led to the suspension of play, but questions remain about the NFL’s process and, if nothing else, the league needs to address its communication and have a more defined policy in place for such a situation, now that this is no longer uncharted territory.