ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Damar Hamlin’s recovery is moving in “a positive direction” two days after the Buffalo Bills safety collapsed and went into cardiac arrest during ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” the player’s marketing representative said Wednesday.
“We all remain optimistic,” Jordon Rooney, a family spokesman who described himself as a good friend of the player, told The Associated Press by phone. He said he was unable to go into further detail on Hamlin’s status at the request of his family not to provide specifics.
Rooney said Hamlin’s family was staying positive and buoyed by the outpouring of worldwide support the second-year Bills player has received since his heart stopped and he was resuscitated on the field before being loaded into an ambulance and transported the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
On Wednesday, the Bills said Hamlin remains in the intensive care unit (ICU) in critical condition with signs of improvement. The Bills posted on social media that he is expected to remain under intensive care as his healthcare team continues to monitor and treat him.
Also on Wednesday, the NFL held a media press conference to address player safety.
“We continue to keep Damar Hamlin and his family in our thoughts,” NFL Executive VP of Communications, Public Affairs and Policy Jeff Miller said.
Miller said the NFL will leave it up to Hamlin’s family to share updates on his condition.
Hamlin’s uncle, Dorrian Glenn, told numerous media outlets Tuesday night there were some encouraging signs in his nephew’s progress, such as doctors lowering the level of oxygen Hamlin needs from 100% to 50%.
“He’s still sedated right now,” Glenn told CNN. “They just want him to have a better chance of recovering better. So, they feel that if he’s sedated, his body can heal a lot faster than if he was woke and possibly cause other complications.”
Rooney did say there was a misunderstanding when Glenn said Hamlin had to be resuscitated twice. Rooney said that “isn’t exactly true,” without going into detail.
During the NFL press conference, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills highlighted the quick response of the emergency medical staff.
“It’s certainly not an exaggeration to say that the skilled and immediate response by all of these talented caregivers prevented a very tragic outcome,” he said.
Sills went on to share the organization’s safety plans for incidents exactly like these.
“Our preparation for these incidents starts many many months before game day,” Sills explained.
Sills highlighted what he called the three E’s of NFL safety: Emergency Action Plan (EAP), equipment, and enhanced preparation.
On Wednesday, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said his greatest fear flashed in front of him.
“There’s no playbook for managing real-time drama and emotions associated with the immediate, life-threatening event that occurred Monday night,” he said.
The chilling scene of Hamlin’s collapse, which played out in front of a North American television audience has put the NFL on hold, with the pivotal game suspended indefinitely. The Kansas Chiefs are battling with the Bills and Bengals for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
What remains unclear is whether the NFL will reschedule the Bills’ game against the Bengals, which has major implications in determining who wins the AFC race, with the playoffs set to open on Jan. 14.
Any decision regarding when and if the Buffalo Bills play their next game belongs to the team, Vincent said on Wednesday.
Specifically, Vincent said the NFL only began discussing the entire schedule and any games involving the Bills on Wednesday. That’s because the NFL intends to follow the lead of Bills head coach Sean McDermott, Vincent said, but that conversation “hasn’t taken place.”
The Bills, who returned to Buffalo early Tuesday, are expected to resume practice on Thursday ahead of their home game against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
The Patriots also pushed back their media availability to Thursday, and noted the NFL approved giving both teams an extra day “due to these unique circumstances.”
The Chiefs (13-3) currently have a half-game lead over Buffalo (12-3), with the Bills owning the tiebreaker after beating Kansas City this season. The Bengals (11-4) are currently the third seed and have also defeated the Chiefs this season.
Hamlin was hurt in the first quarter when he was struck squarely in the chest while making what appeared to be routine tackle of Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin briefly got up and adjusted his facemask before collapsing backward.
Players and fans from across the NFL rallied to Hamlin’s support, with vigils held in Cincinnati and outside the Bills’ home stadium. The shock of what happened also reverberated in Pittsburgh, where the 24-year-old Hamlin grew up and was determined to give back to those in need.
Fans, players and NFL owners have been making donations to Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation. The foundation’s modest goal of raising $2,500 for a toy drive exceeded $6.3 million by noon on Wednesday. Patriots owner Robert Kraft donated $18,003, while Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, together with his wife, Ciara, made $10,000 contributions.
“Damar would want to use this to help other people. He would hate for all his attention to just be on him and there not be a positive outcome,” Rooney told reporters at the hospital. “So, I mean, that’s Damar. I mean, his entire life is spent towards providing and serving other people. That’s just who he is.”
NewsNation affiliate WROC and Reuters contributed to the report.