Tuesday was a difficult and quiet day across the NFL, as the football world waited for some sort of positive updates on Bills safety Damar Hamlin.
Hamlin collapsed on the field Monday night in Buffalo’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He suffered cardiac arrest and was rushed to a nearby hospital where he spent the night in the intensive care and remains in critical condition.
Few if any teams went through media availability Tuesday, allowing coaches and players more time for reflection and the chance to absorb the whole situation. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, however, has a weekly appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show,” and he made that appearance Tuesday, making him the first high-profile player with a high-profile platform to share his thoughts.
Unsurprisingly, Rodgers said the entire ordeal made him contemplate his own situation and how dangerous professional football can be.
“As much as there are rivalries and distaste for certain individuals you play against and there’s bad blood, at the end of the day, there’s one thread that connects us all of us and it’s that we know we are modern-day gladiators,” Rodgers said. “We know that we are providing entertainment for the masses — and doing something we love — but we’re also putting our bodies and our future health on the line. And that’s the one thread that connects all of us.”
Rodgers, who said he spoke via text with Bills quarterback Josh Allen on Monday night, talked about how Hamlin’s scary situation went beyond the supposedly normal injuries NFL players get accustomed to seeing every week.
“Whether you’re currently playing or done playing, you’re shook by this because you don’t think you’d ever see something like this on the field,” he continued. “It’s bad enough when you see a guy gets carted off, right? That messes with you. Or when you see a guy take a really bad concussive shot, and you’re like, ‘Man, I don’t want that to be me.’ Am I going to have my cognitive function when I’m 50, 60? What kind of risk am I really setting myself up for. This kid’s 24 years old, right? This really, it (expletive) me up last night.”
While the Bills (and Bengals) have the unenviable task of setting aside their feelings and preparing for Week 18, Rodgers said he hopes the Packers take some time to reflect on the situation, too. Green Bay has a massive win-and-in Sunday night game against the Detroit Lions, but he thinks it’s important for his team to do a quick reset and check in with each other to make sure everyone’s all right.
“I think there needs to be, a, you know, conversation around it,” he said. “I don’t think you can just gloss it over and ‘Oh, onto to ‘Sunday Night Football’ play-in game for the playoffs.’ It’s like, let’s take a little timeout here. Let’s remember what’s really important. Let’s hug your loved ones, text the people you care about, tell them you love them because this is a good moment to pause and contemplate and reflect and show some empathy and respect not just for Hamlin but every player that laces them up every single week.
“I think anybody who has anything to say on this should have the opportunity to say it. There’s — obviously in our league, we’re creatures of habit. There’s business as usual, get on the schedule and keep things going, you know what I mean? But this is way too big of an event for us to just gloss it over and ‘Let’s get back to work.’ We’re not even affected by it. We weren’t playing the game, that wasn’t our teammate, but that’s still one of our brothers down and fighting for his life. I think it’s important to show the proper respect for him, the Bills and everyone involved.”