NFL Exec Troy Vincent Claims League Never Intended To Restart Bills-Bengals Game
9:01 AM EST on January 3, 2023
Safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field during last night's Monday Night Football game at approximately 8:55 p.m. ET. After receiving CPR on the field he was transported by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center roughly 16 minutes after he collapsed. At that point, viewers watching the broadcast at home were informed by play-by-play announcer Joe Buck that play would be resuming in five minutes.
"They've been given five minutes to quote-unquote get ready to go back to playing," Buck said on air. "That's the word we get from the league and the word we get from down on the field, but nobody's moving." As Buck was saying this, the broadcast showed Bills head coach Sean McDermott and Bengals head coach Zac Taylor having a discussion on the field with the referees, which was followed immediately by both teams returning to the locker room. The game was officially suspended just after 10:00 p.m.
A few hours later, NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent held a conference call with reporters, during which he denied any claims that the league office had attempted to restart the game after Hamlin left the field in an ambulance. From ProFootballTalk:
“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 [Smith] 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.”
Without knowing precisely which lines of communication were open between the league office, officials on the field, and producers on the broadcast, there isn't room to do much more than speculate about how Buck came to believe that the game would be resuming in five minutes. It's possible that he himself was speculating, or had received some bad information; it's also possible that Buck was correct, and that Vincent was trying to engage in damage control a few hours later.
More will likely become clear in the coming days, when the players and coaches speak to the press and can tell us more about what they were being told on the field, and by whom.