The tragic injury suffered by Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin in the Monday Night Football game against Cincinnati resonated with the Eagles, who met the media on Wednesday as players reported to the NovaCare Complex for their first practice of the week. Hamlin went into cardiac arrest in the first quarter of a game that was eventually suspended and sent an entire nation into prayer for his recovery after the stunning event.
Hamlin remains hospitalized in critical condition but showed "signs of improvement" that were observed Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday, according to the team. The Bills said Wednesday in a statement that Hamlin "is expected to remain under intensive care as his health care team continues to monitor and treat him."
Head Coach Nick Sirianni addressed the incident with the team on Wednesday, making sure the players understood that "they've got a lot of people that care for them in this building and that the relationships, this is why you build the relationships."
Sirianni said that resources are available for any players who need help.
"The first thing you do when you see that, it's just shock. You don't see that very often, so it just shocks you," he said. "A lot of emotions and things are going through your mind. My first was as a football coach and as a former football player what was going through my mind. Then my thought process turned into how do I mentor 80 guys through a tough situation like this? Then it turned into, well, my son plays football. There are just a lot of emotions that you have to go through, but to me, it is just the support aspect of it. The last thing on my mind is how do I convince them that, like you said, they have to go out and play.
"We're just here for them right now and trying to just be there for them, and this is an opportunity for us to practice what we preach. Do we really believe the connecting thing, or is it all just BS? This is our opportunity to not only say we're there for you guys, but also be there for them. So that's all we care about is that they know that they have a lot of people. All the guys, anybody that's suffering through this mentally, knows that they have people in this building that care. First of all, they have the resources in this building to be able to talk through things if they need to talk through things with all the different people that we have. But then also they have their teammates and their coaches and a front office that deeply care about these guys."
In the locker room, the mood was upbeat as usual, but the players certainly were moved by what happened on Monday night.
"It's one of those things where you pray for Damar, you pray for the kid and you hope that he's fine, and you know that at the end of the day, as players, we still have a job. It's the way a lot of us provide for our families," linebacker Haason Reddick said. "It's about understanding what happened, trying to handle and cope with the situation whichever way you can, but also to understand that there is a job to go do and be ready come gameday.
"Everybody can take a different approach. Somebody who has kids can look at it differently. If it was me, how would that affect my family? You think about moms, dads, siblings. Everybody's approach is going to be different."
Said center Jason Kelce: "I've watched my brother (Travis, tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs) have injuries and it's very tough. You see the reaction from the players and you know how serious it is. Everybody is just worried about Damar and his health. Football is like a sanctuary for guys to get away from things all the time. When you go on the field, you kind of escape problems you might have off the field – family members, friends, whatever it is – when you go out and play in a game you don't have to worry about anything. For me, playing football helps you cope and you're out there with your friends and your brothers on the team and you play a game. That's kind of the way I process it. Everybody is going to process it differently. We'll see how things move forward, how everybody is doing."
Certainly, every person in football – player, coach, staff member – felt the tragedy as it unfolded and is praying for Hamlin's recovery. The players understand the risk they take every time they step on the field.
No doubt it hit everyone in the Eagles' locker room extremely hard.
"What happened to that young man was very eye-opening to a lot of us and we know every day, every game, we play a violent sport," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "We put our bodies on the line and I don't think a lot of people really realize that until we get into a situation like what happened to that young man. I think the biggest thing is, it's scary. It's eye-opening, sad and we're all praying for him."