Hamlin’s meltdown is a reminder of the brutality of football and the fragility of life originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — When Damar Hamlin collapsed to the ground Monday night in Cincinnati, it quickly became apparent that this was a different situation. David Montgomery knew it right away. Sam Mustipher too.
Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. The Bills’ safety was resuscitated from the field and transported to UC Medical Center, where he remains in intensive care.
The Bills provided an update on Hamlin’s condition on Wednesday, noting that the 24-year-old remains in critical condition but “shows improvement.”
The chilling situation has affected everyone in the NFL fraternity and has been a stark reminder of the brutal violence inherent in football and the fragility of life.
Football is a sport that has conditioned players, fans and the media that horrific injuries, concussions and knocked out players are just part of the game. Players are taken out every Sunday, give a thumbs up and play resumes.
But when the Bears returned to work Wednesday at Halas Hall, business was not as usual, with Hamlin still fighting for his life.
“I was a little uncomfortable,” running back David Montgomery said Wednesday. “It was just one of those things, you put yourself in the situation and understand that it could be you. It’s definitely been at the forefront of my mind, because you know it’s not even three or four days yet. He’s in he’s fighting for his life, so yeah, it’s been on my mind ever since it happened. It’s going to be on my mind.
NFL players understand the inherent risk of playing a violent sport. Most have been tethered for over two decades and have long since made peace with the danger that comes with football.
“It’s tough,” center Sam Mustipher said. “I’m not going to lie to you, as tough as you want to be, as macho as you want to be, it’s a violent game that we play. I understand that every time I go between the white lines I might not not come out the same guy I was when I walked, but it’s different.
“You just do your best to compartmentalize everything, compartmentalize those feelings and go out there and play the game you love. I love this game. It’s given me so much. It’s given me so many opportunities all throughout my life and you have to put it in perspective that way and there really aren’t many words to describe this type of feeling, the emotions, the mixed feelings that I have because I really love this game. When you see stuff like that, you hate to see it happen.”
This world can be cold. Social media has helped attract a population that tends to view gamers as empty vessels for their enjoyment. As numbers for their fantasy team.
An incident like Hamlin’s injury should be a powerful reminder that we, as a football-loving society, need to show more empathy and humanity to players who take the field on whatever the NFL deems appropriate. .
Players are not pawns whose sole purpose is to put points on the board or fire the quarterback. They are husbands, sons, brothers and fathers. For the most part, they are young men trying to achieve a dream they’ve had for as long as they can remember. One they hope their children will one day experience.
Mustipher is a father. Montgomery’s first child is due in 12 days.
Parenthood makes you see life, even football, differently. A trauma like Hamlin’s changes the perspective of the man in the arena into a protective guardian.
“Parenting, you know, is hard, man,” an emotional Mustipher said with tears in his eyes. “I can’t imagine. I want my son to play football. I do. I love this game, I love what it taught me, the life lessons, the responsibility, the responsibility, the teamwork and, you know, I can “I can’t imagine seeing my son there like that. I know how my mother would feel. I know how my father would feel. It’s unfortunate, man.”
With one game left in the season, it could be tough for the Bears to get back to “normal” this week.
It’s shocking when truths you’ve long known but dismissed or ignored are laid bare. It will cause introspection, impact motivation, and perhaps become a flashpoint for change, whether personal or on a larger scale.
Maybe Hamlin’s injury will make the NFL and all of us look in the mirror.
Perhaps this will help us see the consequences for those who choose to play a sport that made our hearts race and our heads soar. Recognize that the risk taken by players will never equal the reward, and ask us to be better, more empathetic and more humane participants in its ecosystem.
The one we all pray to welcome back Damar Hamlin.