OPINION: The NFL’s handling of player safety is seriously concerning

Author’s Note: I must disclose that this article is an opinion article backed up with facts from accreditednews organizations or valid web sources. The opinions expressed in this article are mine and do not reflect that of any organization or business I have previously worked for, currently work for or will work for in the future.This article is not meant to belittle any political groups or influential people in power.

This article is actively being updated as information becomes available on Damar Hamlin’s injury as well as the NFL protocols.

A day after Nick Foles’ injury.

Two weeks after Tua Tagovailoa’s second concussion.

Monday night’s Bengals-Bills matchup was put on hold due to a scary injury involving Damar Hamlin ultimately passing out and being administered CPR and AED before being taken away in an ambulance.

We can get into the fact that Thursday night and Monday night games are an issue in it and of themselves another time.

This season, the NFL had a string of controversial injuries that resulted in the game being stopped momentarily to cater to the player. Getting carted off, taken off on a stretcher or even a player leaving the field on his own accord.

Usually, those players are able to communicate within a matter of hours to their team and fans that they’re okay. Usually followed by an “I’ll be back.” of some sort.

But not Monday night was different.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was administered CPR for nine minutes in addition to AED before being taken to a hospital following a collision with Tee Higgins. After getting off the ground following the collision, Hamlin collapsed to the ground.

It was reported after that he was not breathing but had a pulse after being taken in an ambulance.

When you have an event happen like this, it’s considered traumatic. Traumatic for the player(s) involved all the way to the fan in the very back of the stadium witnessing the situation. 

According to the APA, trauma is considered to be “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, crime, or natural disaster.” Considering the state of Monday night’s incident, it’s safe to concur that both teams experienced trauma. 

What the players, staff and fans could have witnessed is an example of acute trauma, something that can have a lasting impact on their mental health. Not only that, but the players in the league watching tonight’s game were impacted, too.

We have to remember that players are people, too, and though they are much stronger physically than the rest of us, they can still deal with psychological trauma from the game in many different ways. Tonight is one of those instances from the Bills and Bengals.

I don’t even need to pull up the videos and pictures of players devastated and heartbroken to tell you this is disheartening for all involved.   

But, the following actions from the NFL are inconceivable. 

The NFL gave both teams five minutes after the scene seemed to clear up before continuing the MNF game. Later on, however, EVP of football operations Troy Vincent claimed the NFL “never informed the teams they had five minutes to warm up to resume play.”

However, on four separate occasions in this video, Joe Buck mentioned how the teams were notified of having a short amount of time to get back on the field.

Let’s think about that for a second. The NFL basically said, “A coworker needed CPR and AED, but get back to work in five minutes.”

To put it in perspective for a second: I had a traumatic event happen back in October 2021 that I still haven’t recovered from. That’s a whole 14 months. Giving a player five minutes is absurd.

You can’t be serious. You, as the NFL, cannot be serious in that scenario. Not after the Tagovailoa concussion – and then the second concussion. 

We have the Buffalo Bills organization, head coach and players and everyone involved who are trying to process in real-time what’s going on. The Bengals are doing the same. Right away, those players knew something was off. Their brother, whether a teammate or opponent, is down. This isn’t a situation where you can “just play through it.”

Major props to Zac Taylor and Sean McDermott for stepping in and taking their players off the field for the temporary suspension. According to multiple, unconfirmed reports, the NFL did not make the decision to suspend the game. The NFLPA stepped in to enforce the game’s suspension.

Now, why can’t they play through it? Even if they decided they wanted to play, why would it not be a good idea?

Take Simone Biles for instance. She suffered a mental health incident during the recent Olympics which caused her to drop out of the competition. Though she received backlash for the decision, it was in the better interest of her physical health. 

When doing gymnastics, especially at that level, you need to have air awareness and complete focus at all times. Due to what she suffered from, she would not have been able to focus. The lack of focus and air awareness could have led to injuries. 

Now, I love football and the NFL and I always will. I’ll always praise the Eagles for doing well and harshly criticize them when they do wrong, but the NFL as a whole needs to evaluate their actions following Monday night.

I’m deeply disappointed in the NFL’s handling of the situation, but not surprised. The league is business and money-centered and this season is a prime example of how careless they are when it comes to player safety. Though Hamlin’s incident was a freak accident and not an act of targeting, the immediate actions by the NFL were not appropriate.

I hope the NFL learns from this as a life-or-death situation happened on their watch and they seemingly thought that playing the Monday Night game is a good idea.

(Photo: Dylan Buell / Getty Images)

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