CINCINNATI — Fans of the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills showed up at Paycor Stadium on Monday night, expecting to witness one of the most exciting matchups of the NFL season.

What they got was something much darker and scarier.

What You Need To Know

  • Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field Monday night in a game against the Bengals in Cincinnati

  • Hamlin, 24, suffered cardiac arrest

  • The more than 65,000 fans in the stands were left with questions and concerns as the events unfolded

  • The NFL hasn't yet decided about the future of the paused game

Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field midway through the first quarter after tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins on a seemingly routine play.

Medical personnel performed treatment, including administering CPR and giving him oxygen, on the field for nearly 20 minutes, ESPN reported. Bills players surrounded Hamlin, both as a show of support for their teammate and to shield him from public view.

Hamlin was taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the region’s only level one trauma center.

“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 early Tuesday morning.

Doctors sedated Hamlin, who spent Monday night in the intensive care unit at UC Medical Center. He remains there Tuesday in critical condition, the team said.

Bills players embrace one another while their teammate receives treatment on the field. (AP)
Bills players embrace one another while their teammate receives treatment on the field. (AP)

Following Hamlin’s injury, players on both teams appeared visibly shaken as the situation unfolded in front of them. Several players were seen on the national TV broadcast with tears rolling down their faces.

“It was just confusion at first because obviously you don’t automatically think the worst, but then as it progressed and the players and staff of both teams were visibly upset, it became apparent it was serious,” said Tracy Carrington-Williams, who attended the game with her husband, Steve Williams. It was her first NFL game.

The couple traveled from London to Cincinnati for the contest. Williams is a diehard Bengals fan.

Immediately following Hamlin’s injury, the initial feelings inside the stadium on Monday were that of concern, according to Carrington-Williams. But she said the emotions ramped up as time went on.

“When the ambulance arrived it was deeply worrying,” she said, adding that fans around them were speculating about what was going on.

It was a far cry from the start of the game, said Glenn Goodberry, a Bills fan. He described the stadium as being “peak electricity,” vibrating with energy to the point “his eyes felt fuzzy.” He thought at one point early on he might need earplugs.

The crowd fell silent following Hamlin’s injury, Goodberry said. He can’t forget the sounds of ambulance sirens as it drove off the field.

“People were confused about what was going on,” said Goodberry, who made the nearly seven-hour trek from the greater Buffalo area with his brother, Joe. “We just sat there waiting for word on what they’d do with the game.”

The NFL ultimately decided to suspend the game Monday night as the Bengals were leading 7-3 with 6:12 remaining in the first quarter.

When the NFL finally canceled the game, the couple didn’t leave right away, Carrington-Williams said. “Everything felt very surreal.” 

As of Tuesday morning, things still felt “very subdued from what we witnessed,” Carrington-Williams said, noting that they remain glued to social media looking for updates on Hamlin’s condition.

“We’re still deeply concerned,” she said.

On Tuesday morning, Hamlin’s family issued a statement thanking the first responders and health care professionals for providing “exceptional care for Damar.”

What’s next for the Bills and Bengals?

While many fans seem most concerned with Hamlin’s well-being, the NFL still must decide what to do with the unfinished game. 

The Bills/Bengals matchup has major playoff implications as the NFL enters the final week of the regular season. Both teams are vying for the top seed in the AFC playoffs and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs up to the Super Bowl.

The NFL hasn’t yet indicated when, or if, it will continue or restart the game. But it emphasized Tuesday that if the decision is made to resume the game, it won’t happen this week.

“After speaking with both teams and NFLPA leadership, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell informed the clubs that the Bills-Bengals game will not be resumed this week,” the league wrote in a press statement Tuesday afternoon.

Both the Bills and the Bengals have games scheduled on Sunday, Jan. 8, the last day of the regular season. As things stand currently, the wild-card playoff round would begin on Jan. 14.

The league has so far made no changes to the Week 18 schedule.

Carrington-Williams and her husband are flying back to England on Tuesday at 2 p.m. At one point, they floated the idea of trying to stick around and rearrange their travel plans to see if the NFL announced plans to reschedule the game Tuesday or Wednesday, Carrington-Williams said.

Joe and Glenn Goodberry pose for a photo during the Bengals/Bills game in Cincinnati. (Photo courtesy of Glenn Goodberry)
Joe and Glenn Goodberry pose for a photo during the Bengals/Bills game in Cincinnati. (Photo courtesy of Glenn Goodberry)

Ultimately, though, even if the league had done that, Carrington-Williams said she didn’t think there’d be enough time to make arrangements.

“We have no option but to go home,” she added.

If the game is resumed or restarted, the newlyweds wouldn’t have enough vacation time to make a return trip to Cincinnati, Williams added. With that said, he’s not sure the game should be played at this point. 

“I can’t see it being rescheduled and awarding a Cincinnati win feels a little bit empty to me. But I’m not sure what other decisions can be made,” he said. “I guess the powers that be will decide on the game outcome.”

This was Williams’ first trip to Cincinnati. He called the overall experience “nothing short of amazing, fantastic and all the other superlatives you can name.”

Still, Carrington-Williams admitted to being disappointed at how things transpired. She purchased the tickets to Cincinnati as an early 50th birthday present for her husband. 

But she stressed that their disappointment “obviously doesn’t compare with what Hamlin’s family, friends and team are going through at the moment.”

With the future of the game still hanging in the balance, the Goodberry brothers stuck with their existing plan of having breakfast in Cincinnati and driving back home.

Neither the NFL nor the Bengals have discussed plans for issuing ticket refunds or offering replacement tickets.

The Goodberrys received their tickets as a gift, Glenn Goodberry said. He mentioned that they’d like to return for the make-up match if one gets played. That’s assuming their schedules line up.

“At this point we’re not dealing with a monetary loss, but what an unbelievable situation overall,” Goodberry added.

Mike Brown, owner of the Bengals, echoed those sentiments on Tuesday in a statement released by the franchise. Brown, who joined the Bengals upon its founding in 1968, called the events of Tuesday night “unprecedented.”

“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,” he added.

Goodberry praised Bengals fans and the people of Cincinnati for their outpouring of support. He noted a woman was leaving Paycor Stadium and wanted to offer words of encouragement and support.

He commented on how quickly those in the stadium switched from being opposing fans to more than 65,000 people trying to cope with a shared tragedy.

“This city has been nothing but amazing,” Goodberry said. “I just want to say thank you on behalf of all Bills fans.”