The aftermath of the terrifying cardiac emergency suffered by Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin has spawned an apparent disagreement between the NFL and longtime broadcast partner ESPN.
The essence of the split revolves around the question of whether the league tried to resume the "Monday Night Football" game between the Bills and Bengals in the minutes after Hamlin was administered CPR and an AED on the field.
During the break in action, ESPN play-by-play announcer Joe Buck alluded several times to a supposed plan to resume the game, citing sources with the league. However, hours after the game was eventually postponed indefinitely, NFL executive Troy Vincent told reporters that the league had never considered resuming the game.
Buck, speaking with New York Post media reporter Andrew Marchand on Tuesday, maintained that he was told by ESPN's rules expert John Parry that the game would in fact resume.
“They said they’re going to give five minutes of a warm-up to these players to get ready,” Buck said via phone.
Buck's reporting would seem to comport with what at least some players were told. At one point during the delay, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, among a few others, was seen warming up on the sideline.
Separately on Tuesday, ESPN released a statement to NFL reporter Jeff Howe of The Athletic.
"... we reported what we were told in the moment and immediately updated fans as new information was learned," the statement said in part.
It seems likely that the NFL did intend for the game to resume, which, despite the ghastly scene, would not have been much of a departure from longstanding protocol. After all, it's commonplace for games to resume after players have suffered catastrophic head and neck injuries.
Off the field, the league proceeded with a full slate of games just one day after former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his partner and then committed suicide in December 2012. Perhaps most infamously, the late former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle said the biggest regret of his career was that the league had staged its games just two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963.
The difference in the Hamlin episode is that it seems the game was finally suspended on account of the players and coaches refusing to retake the field after witnessing medical professionals and team trainers hastily attempting to preserve the life of one of their comrades.
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