We await further information regarding Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who remains at last word in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center after experiencing cardiac arrest on the field during last night’s game. We have nothing at this time to say about any other issues in the NFL, and we have suspended coverage of all other topics or subjects until further notice.
That said, there is a significant open question as to the status of what was one of the most significant late-season Monday night games in years. The NFL said during a conference call held not long after midnight that it will address the status of the game at the appropriate time.
It’s currently unclear when the appropriate time will be. The simple reality is that, with Week 18 set to commence in only four days, there’s not much time for last night’s game to resume, without significant alterations to the remainder of the schedule for the 2022 season.
One possibility would be to move the game to the coming weekend, with all of Week 18 moved back by a week — and with the playoffs nudged back by a week and the bye between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl eliminated. That happened in 2001, when a full week of September games was postponed until the very end of the regular season after 9/11, with the playoffs delayed by a week and only seven days between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.
The other possibility would be to cancel the game, and to determine playoff seeding based on winning percentages, given that the Bills and Bengals would have played only 16 games. The NFL was prepared to implement such measures during the 2020 season, when it seemed very possible that the pandemic would result in the cancellation of one or more games.
However the schedule plays out, neither the Bills nor the Bengals should be expected to play again until the appropriate medical professionals believe that the men who were directly affected by last night’s events are able to do so. At a time when mental health receives more attention than ever, it’s critical that the people affected by last night’s incident are in the right and proper frame of mind to continue playing football, under any circumstances.
Although the status of Damar Hamlin will be the primary focus by far, the players, the coaches, and others who witnessed the incident suffered psychological and emotional injury. That also must be taken into account when the appropriate time comes to make decisions about the Bills, the Bengals, or any team continuing to play football.