Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor said it was clear they couldn’t continue Monday night’s game against the Bills — after Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest emergency — when Taylor crossed the field to speak with Buffalo coach Sean McDermott.
“When I got over there, the first thing [McDermott] said was, ‘I need to be at the hospital with Damar, and I shouldn’t be coaching this game,’” Taylor said at a Wednesday press conference. “That to me provides all the clarity. In that moment, he really showed who he was, that all his focus was just on Damar and being there for him, being there for his family at the hospital. And at that point, everything trended in the direction it needed to trend.”
Midday Wednesday, the Bills updated that Hamlin, while still in critical condition, has shown “signs of improvement” in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
But none of Buffalo’s coaches or players were ready to speak publicly as they are scheduled — for now, at least — to host the New England Patriots on Sunday.
NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent said on a league call that he’d been in contact with McDermott, and the only topic they’d spoken about was Hamlin’s health.
“It is tough,” Vincent said. “And coach is still battling.”
The league still hasn’t made a decision on whether to reschedule the Bills’ and Bengals’ game at all. All they know is it won’t be played this week.
But Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow was skeptical that they’d be able to fit the game anywhere and said his team will support the Bills no matter what.
“I think that would be tough just scheduling wise,” Burrow said of replaying the game. “I think whatever Buffalo would want to do would be what we would want to do, as well. We’re behind them 100 percent and support them in whatever they decide to do.”
It’s an open question whether the Bills will even be able to play New England on Sunday, though, let alone Cincinnati again.
The Bengals’ Week 18 game against the Baltimore Ravens was officially scheduled for 1 p.m. this Sunday.
“There is no playbook for managing real-time drama,” Vincent said.
Vincent admitted that the “guiding principles” of the NFL’s 2020 Covid playbook could help them navigate these uncharted waters if a game or games get canceled.
The NFL’s owners were prepared in that 2020 season to use team winning percentages to determine division winners and playoff seeding if all 32 teams weren’t able to complete their full schedules.
That may come into play now. That’s if the NFL doesn’t decide to push back more games and use the extra off week before the Super Bowl as a buffer to ease back into its slate.
Vincent said he is just now beginning to research the possibilities and permutations, and if the Bills and Bengals never play, then that’s the route they’ll choose.
“Potentially there may be a lack of equity, but it will allow those that have earned the right to play to continue to play,” he said.
Burrow relayed that on Monday night, though, after Hamlin’s emergency, “nobody wanted to continue to play the game in a situation like that.”
And there is no telling how the Bills or the NFL will be able to proceed, as they all keep their thoughts and prayers pointed at Hamlin’s hopeful recovery.