Bills’ Damar Hamlin on Bucs’ minds as they return to the field

The horrific scene on Monday night, watching Hamlin suffer a cardiac arrest during a game, hit close to home across the fraternity of NFL players.
The Bills' Tre'Davious White and Mitch Morse react to teammate Damar Hamlin collapsing after making a tackle against the Bengals during the first quarter of Monday night's game in Cincinnati.
The Bills' Tre'Davious White and Mitch Morse react to teammate Damar Hamlin collapsing after making a tackle against the Bengals during the first quarter of Monday night's game in Cincinnati. [ DYLAN BUELL | Getty Images North America ]
Published Jan. 4|Updated Jan. 5

TAMPA — Before every game, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and his teammates say a prayer. It has become routine, but Monday night, watching Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin suffer cardiac arrest on the field, the Bucs’ second-year edge rusher said he was reminded of the need for those prayers.

“You pray for that before the game because you want everyone to make it home because ultimately we’re playing a game and everyone has their lives outside of the field,” Tryon-Shoyinka said after practice Wednesday at AdventHeath Training Center. “And when a brother — because this is a brotherhood in the NFL — like that goes down to the type of fashion, all you can do is pray for Damar and try to continue to have a positive outlook on it.

“But it’s just not a good sight to see.”

Hamlin, 24, suffered cardiac arrest in the first quarter against the Bengals after what looked like a routine tackle of receiver Tee Higgins. He stood up after the collision, adjusted his helmet, then collapsed. Medical professionals performed CPR on him for nearly nine minutes before he was taken off the field in an ambulance.

Hamlin remained in critical condition Wednesday in the intensive care unit of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. The Bills and a family spokesman said Hamlin had shown signs of improvement.

The sight of emotional players from both teams on the field Monday in shock, some with tears obvious, was still on everyone’s mind as the Bucs returned to the practice field. It hit coach Todd Bowles not just as a coach and former player, but also as a father. He addressed it in his morning meeting with players.

“It was heartbreaking. And it still is,” Bowles said. “I have two kids that play football coming up, and you think about that part of it and having played myself. We chose to play this game. It helps you appreciate the little things that you have going on in your life when you see something like that.”

For cornerback Carlton Davis, it hit close to home. He immediately remembered former Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead talking about his University of Pittsburgh roommate, Hamlin, as an up-and-coming star in the NFL.

“That was just heartbreaking,” Davis said. “Jordan … used to tell me about him because he was younger than him and he was just telling me what to watch out for him. And it was just so heartbreaking to see that play and how it seemed like it was just a normal play and it was just a detrimental play to him. Just a sad day for the sport.”

Playing the same position and having made similar plays, Sean Murphy-Bunting said he got very emotional watching it.

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“You see (Hamlin) go down and you think it’s a concussion or something with the head. You see him stand up and he just fell out, and you’re like, ‘Whoa!’ There’s a lot of emotions, obviously, just because of the nature of the game, you play the same position,” Murphy-Bunting said. “You can be in the same situation.

“I felt for him. I felt for his family. I felt for his team. It’s just a situation where you don’t really know what to think. You just pray whatever happens, he comes out OK and able to live his life.”

Monday night was a brutal reminder of the violent nature of the sport they play.

“It’s a dangerous game. It’s a very violent game,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “And so it’s rough. You hate to see a guy go down like that. And I think one of the things that touched me the most was seeing guys on the field having to witness their teammate being down that way.”

While thoughts were with Hamlin and his family, what happened is not something players can take with them back on the field Sunday in their regular-season finale against the Falcons, running back Rachaad White said.

“It’s just kind of what I signed up for. So, I am going to go out there and give it my all. And that’s all I can keep doing,” White said after offering prayers for Hamlin and his family. “For me, I’m going to keep playing.

“It’s a tough thing. … You just never know, but one thing I do is appreciate life, and I appreciate all the little things and just (to) be able to play this game. I am going to keep playing hard.”

Contact Kristie Ackert at Follow @ByKristieAckert.

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