(NewsNation) — Buffalo defensive back Damar Hamlin was in critical condition early Tuesday after the Bills say he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field following a tackle hours earlier, leading to the indefinite postponement of Buffalo’s pivotal Monday night showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit in our game versus the Bengals. His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment,” the Bills said in a statement. “He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.”
Hamlin’s family expressed sincere gratitude for everyone who has shown support in a statement Tuesday. “Your generosity and compassion mean the world to us.”
In a chilling scene, Hamlin was administered CPR on the field, ESPN reported, while surrounded by teammates, some of them in tears, while they shielded him from public view. He was hurt while tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins on a seemingly routine play that didn’t appear unusually violent.
Hamlin reportedly had a pulse, but he was not breathing on his own. Medical personnel administered CPR. Both teams left the field, and the game was suspended. Hamlin was transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center emergency room; his mother reportedly rode in the ambulance with him.
The Monday night matchup between the Bills and Bengals was suspended following the serious injury to Hamlin, which occurred at the 5:58 mark of the first quarter with the Bengals leading 7-3.
Hamlin was injured when he put a hard hit on Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin initially rose from the field after the play, only to collapse a moment later.
The game was ultimately postponed. Hamlin’s marketing representative Jordon Rooney said his vitals are back to normal and that the hospital put him to sleep to put a breathing tube down his throat.
On late Monday night, the NFL released a statement on Hamlin. “Our thoughts are with Damar and the Buffalo Bills,” it said. “We will provide more information as it becomes available.”
Stefon Diggs, one of Hamlin’s teammates, was spotted entering the hospital where Damar is being treated. A group of about 100 Bengals and Bills fans reportedly embraced while praying together a block from the hospital.
“Please continue to pray for Damar and his family. We currently have no update at this time. Will ask that you keep the family in your prayers,” said Hamlin’s agent Ira Turner in a statement.
The National Football League Players Association also released a statement, which read, “The NFLPA and everyone in our community is praying for Damar Hamlin. We have been in touch with Bills and Bengals players, and with the NFL. The only thing that matters at this moment is Damar’s health and well being.”
Jeff Miller, an NFL executive vice president, told reporters on a conference call early Tuesday that the league had made no plans at this time to play the game, adding that Hamlin’s health was the main focus.
“I’ve never seen anything like it since I was playing,” NFL executive Troy Vincent, a six-time Pro Bowl cornerback during his career, said in the conference call early Tuesday morning. “Immediately, my player hat went on, like, how do you resume playing after seeing a traumatic event in front of you?”
Vincent said the league took no steps toward restarting the game and did not ask players to begin a five-minute warmup period as ESPN’s broadcasters had announced.
“It never crossed our mind to talk about warming up to resume play,” Vincent said. “That’s ridiculous. That’s insensitive. That’s not a place we should ever be in.”
Vincent said the Bills were returning early Tuesday morning to the team facility in Orchard Park, New York, with the exception of a few players who stayed behind with Hamlin.
There was a heavy police presence at Buffalo Niagara International Airport when the team arrived at about 2:45 a.m. A small group of fans gathered across the street from the players’ parking area near the airport. Police blocked off the road to allow the players to leave.
The unfinished game has major playoff implications as the NFL enters the final week of the regular season, with the wild-card playoff round scheduled to begin on Jan. 14.
The aftermath of the injury was reminiscent of when Bills tight end Kevin Everett lay motionless on the field after making a tackle on the second-half opening kickoff in Buffalo’s 2007 season-opening game against the Denver Broncos.
Everett sustained a spinal cord injury that initially left him partially paralyzed.
The 6-foot Hamlin, who played college football at the University of Pittsburgh, was selected in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft (the 212th pick overall). After serving as a reserve player last year, this season Hamlin rose to the starting lineup following an injury to Micah Hyde in Week 2.
A tweet from the Pitt football account was simple and clear: “Damar Hamlin is the best of us. We love you, 3,” the tweet said, referring to Hamlin by his college jersey number. “Praying for you.”
By late Monday night, a community toy drive organized by Hamlin had surged to more than $1.2 million in donations. His stated goal was $2,500.
The Bills Mafia, the network of Bills fans worldwide who use social media to stay in touch and gather at local watering holes to watch the games, was consumed with expressions of support, concern and love for Hamlin and his teammates. Many of the Mafia pages on Facebook had temporarily paused accepting new posts because of the volume, asking their members to instead pray and donate to Hamlin’s charities.
Kathryn Bersani and her mother, Gayle, were among the Bills fans who traveled from Buffalo for the game and went to the hospital from the stadium.
“This is our family Christmas,” Kathryn Bersani said. “We thought it would be a great game. Joe (Burrow) and Josh (Allen) are such great men. Sad, sad time. Such a shock. I just hope he can live a normal life. It stunned us.”
Chuck and Janet Kohl went to the hospital after watching the game at home.
“This is much more important than football,” Chuck Kohl said. “Had to come and pray for Mr. Hamlin.”
This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.