The Buffalo Bills gather as an ambulance parks on the field while CPR is administered to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. The Buffalo Bills gather as an ambulance parks on the field while CPR is administered to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) after a play in the first quarter of the NFL Week 17 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills at Paycor Stadium in Downtown Cincinnati on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. The game was suspended with suspended in the first quarter after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) was taken away in an ambulance following a play. Xxx Sdsyndication The Enquirer 5533 Jpg Oh

Monday Night Football’s matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals was stopped in the first quarter after Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed to the ground following a collision with Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. In a scary scene, Hamlin was unable to breathe on his own, was issued CPR and AED by medical staff, and was eventually rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where, as of this writing, he continues to receive treatment for cardiac arrest.

In the aftermath of the injury, both Bills and Bengals players appeared shell-shocked. While we’ve seen NFL games continue in the wake of injuries before, as Lisa Salters noted, this felt different. And no one would have blamed the NFL for suspending the game outright then and there.

However, that didn’t appear to be the case at the time. Joe Buck, who was calling the game alongside Troy Aikman on ESPN, mentioned on four different occasions that the teams had been given a notice of five minutes to warm up before play would resume. The four instances were compiled by Timothy Burke.

“The two head coaches, you can see, got together. And they’ll have five minutes to warm up,” said Buck.

“As we said, they’ve been given five minutes to quote-unquote to get ready to go back to playing, that’s the word we get from the league and the word we get from down on the field but nobody’s moving,” he would say soon after.

“Then, when we got the update that within five minutes, these players were gonna start playing football again, we saw Zac Taylor live walk across the field to Sean McDermott,” said Buck later still.

“Players were being told that they would have five minutes to get back ready for play, and the players were standing around,” said Buck over footage of the players heading for the locker room. “We saw Zac Taylor walk across the field and talk to Sean McDermott.”

Buck specifically says at one point that this edict for a five-minute warm-up before play resumes came from “the league.” And say what you want about the longtime play-by-play man, but he’s been around the block long enough to know when a piece of information is allowed to be shared during an NFL broadcast, let alone four times.

Besides, as we’ve seen this year with Deshaun Watson and Tua Tagovailoa, broadcasters are going to dance around delicate subjects when it comes to the NFL. They’re not in the business of making the league look bad.

Naturally, the NFL took a lot of heat for the perceived decision to force Bills and Bengals players to immediately get back to playing football after watching one of their own require CPR and emergency care right in front of them. And given the league’s track record of putting money ahead of humanity, it wasn’t a huge leap to presume it was true.

However, when Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, was asked about the warm-up report during a press conference Monday evening, he not only refuted it but called the very notion “insensitive.”

“I’m not sure where that came from,” Vincent said. “Frankly, there was no time period for the players to get warmed up. Frankly, the only thing that we asked was that [referee] Shawn [Hochuli] communicate with both head coaches to make sure they had the proper time inside the locker room to discuss what they felt like was best. So I’m not sure where that came from. Five-minute warmup never crossed my mind, personally. And I was the one . . . that was communicating with the Commissioner. We never, frankly, it never crossed our mind to talk about warming up to resume play. That’s ridiculous. That’s insensitive. And that’s not a place that we should ever be in.”

Vincent added that he had been in constant communication with Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, and both head coaches all evening following the injury.

“It was really about Damar and making sure — look, I’ve never seen anything like it since I’ve been playing, so immediately my player hat went on,” said Vincent, who played in the NFL for 16 seasons. “How do you resume playing when such a traumatic event occurs in front of you in real-time? And that’s the way we were thinking about it, the Commissioner and I.”

And so we’re all left a bit confused. If Vincent is saying that restarting the game was never even considered, why would Buck mention it four times during the MNF broadcast and infer that he was quoting from a league decision? Are we to believe that such a decision came from someone in the NFL that didn’t include the people Vincent referred to? Did Buck misunderstand a message that was relayed to him from lower-level NFL people at the game? When Buck said “quote-unquote,” who was he quoting?

Before Vincent denied the warm-up report, the understood story that had been circulating social media was that Bills head coach Sean McDermott and Bengals head coach Zac Taylor met on the field and decided not to let their players continue the game, putting the NFL in the position where they had no choice. That hasn’t been confirmed either, to be clear. But there’s a reason plenty of people accepted it as the most likely scenario, at least for now.

We’ll wait to see what, if any, clarity comes on Tuesday. We have to imagine Buck will be asked about it at some point, and someone high-up at the NFL will no doubt be asked why Buck was so sure the league had told the teams the game was restarting. Until then, just like with Hamlin’s condition, we can only go off of what we know for sure.

[Timothy Burke]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to