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Players across the NFL reported to team facilities Wednesday, a football world trapped between a Week 17 that may linger for years and a high-stakes Week 18 that marks the tip of a grueling regular season.
While one in every of their very own continues to fight for his life in a Cincinnati hospital, the sprawling brotherhood of skilled players prayed. They talked. They shared. And since it’s what they’ve at all times done, they placed on their helmets and tried to arrange for one more game in a sport where the risks have never been more apparent.
Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin was still listed in critical condition Wednesday after suffering sudden cardiac arrest at midfield of Monday’s game against the Bengals. Two days later, the NFL world continued spinning and players reported to work, starting preparations for a weekend slate that features two games on Saturday and 12 more Sunday.
The NFL and its all-in mentality rarely offer room for introspection or conflicted feelings, but teams across the league took time Wednesday to reflect while also attempting to look forward.
“You may do two things directly,” Bengals Coach Zac Taylor said. “You may prepare for a football game on Sunday, and you’ll be able to still support Damar, support those that knew him who and are coping with some emotional stuff during this time.”
Taylor, whose team was on the sphere when Hamlin collapsed Monday, knows they’ve so much to process, but they practiced Wednesday because they’ve a game against the Baltimore Ravens looming Sunday and a division championship potentially at stake.
“People know what they’re signing up for,” Taylor said. “This was a troublesome situation. My understanding based on the knowledge we have now is it’s a one in a really small probability of that occuring. Players that play football know that; they know what they’re moving into.”
The Bills are also expected to play their Week 18 game Sunday against the Recent England Patriots. Neither players nor coaches for either team spoke with reporters Wednesday.
After players get well from Sunday contests, Wednesdays typically mark the beginning of a latest week at team facilities. This week, players reported to work, but things were different. Locker room chatter and meeting room discussions weren’t solely focused on X’s and O’s or film review.
“It was very, very quiet in there,” Green Bay Packers Coach Matt LaFleur said of his team’s morning meeting.
“We talked about it as soon as we got here in,” Washington Commanders safety Kam Curl said. “It’s just like the elephant within the room.”
Many teams brought in team chaplains or club executives focused on player engagement. They talked about Hamlin, concerning the game’s risks, about their very own team’s safety measures and concerning the resources available to them to deal with the wide selection of emotions swirling around team facilities. In practice facilities across the league, including Washington, Dallas and Detroit, team meetings began with a prayer.
“All of us within the room got here together and did that after which we moved on,” Lions Coach Dan Campbell said. “We just felt like that was the very best thing to do, it was the precise thing to do. Once you don’t have words — and there’s really nothing you recognize what to say, how you can say it, there’s waves of emotion, that’s the very best thing. So we did that. That’s where we left it.”
The NFL is a fancy web of private connections, with bonds that stretch back years, across franchises and from the locker room to the coaches’ offices and back. Washington linebacker Khaleke Hudson has been close with Hamlin and Hamlin’s family since childhood. He said Wednesday he’s taking comfort in news reports that Hamlin’s family has noted signs of progress.
“It’s running through my mind all day, even at practice, just excited about him,” Hudson said.
“It’s a violent game,” he continued, “and also you go on the market on daily basis putting your best foot forward, trying to simply do the very best as you’ll be able to for the team. It’s sad that it happened that way and it happened to him on a freak accident.”
The NFL has at all times been a fast-moving train. Through career-ending injuries, personal tragedies, skilled controversies, even national disasters, with few exceptions, teams manage to take the sphere per week later.
Washington wreceiver Terry McLaurin said he couldn’t sleep Monday night. Most idplayers have seen and experienced brutal hits, broken bones and head injuries. Monday was different.he, but at the tip of the day, there’s some truth to that, and we all know that.”
In Miami, Dolphins Coach Mike McDaniel’s voice cracked as he discussed the challenges of taking the practice field Wednesday. It was necessary that his team start the day with an open conversation, McDaniel said, and he urged players to share their feelings and seek help in the event that they needed it.
“‘Hey listen, there’s no way that you must feel,’” McDaniel said he told his team. “‘How you are feeling is how you are feeling. And it may possibly affect people in totally other ways. Be there to support one another since you don’t know the way your teammates are feeling. … There’s no way — right or mistaken or indifferent — on how you can feel.’”
Players can uniquely appreciate the trail to an NFL profession. They know what it means to make a team’s roster — or to suffer an injury that puts the whole lot in peril: a dream, a livelihood, an identity.
“You’ve invested a lot into that game,” McDaniel said, “when the sport brings forth something like that — that’s one in every of the countless variety of reasons people really struggle with it, with knowing how you can feel. The sport gives us a lot.”
Washington wide receiver Terry McLaurin said he couldn’t sleep Monday night. Most players have seen and experienced brutal hits, broken bones and head injuries. Monday was different.
“As athletes, we all know the risks that we take putting a helmet on. But you simply never think it’s going to come back to that, where it’s life or death,” McLaurin said.
Even in the event that they didn’t watch the “Monday Night Football” broadcast live, players and coaches said, they’ve been inundated with texts and calls concerning the incident, adding to the swirl of thoughts, fears and emotions.
“Lots of emotions and things are going through your mind,” Philadelphia Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni said. “My first [reaction was] as a football coach and a former football player. Then my thought process become, how do I mentor 80 guys through a troublesome situation like that? Then it become, ‘Well, my son plays football.’ There’s just numerous emotions you could have to undergo.”
Including, he said, the emotions surrounding how you can return to the sphere.
“You only do. You go from one to the subsequent,” Sirianni said. “You are attempting to make the transition there — you talk concerning the tough things which are happening and you could have that conversation. And then you definitely transition. It’s demanding.”