ESPN's 'Monday Night Football' Game Suspended After Player Injury

Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals players react to an injury sustained by Damar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium on January 2, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
(Image credit: Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

The Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals was suspended during the first quarter after Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field following a tackle.

Hamlin fell over backwards and was reportedly given CPR. Players from both teams looked on — crying and praying — as he received medical attention. Hamlin was put in an ambulance and taken to a hospital.

The Buffalo Bills later said Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest and his heartbeat was restored on the field.

The injury occurred at about 8:59 p.m. ET.

Initially, both teams reportedly were given five minutes to warm up and resume the game. But after meeting with their players, the coaches decided to pull their teams from the field at least until the player’s condition could be ascertained.

At about 10 p.m. ET, the NFL decided that the game would not resume Monday night. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in a statement, said that Hamlin was in “critical condition.” No time to resume play was determined. 

NFL games are rarely stopped. Some games were rescheduled because of player illness during the COVID pandemic. Games have also been suspended due to lightning and other weather conditions.

The game was being televised on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2.

During the suspension, ESPN commentators were left discussing how the player’s health was everyone’s main concern and that no one cares about the game.

 “This went from a sports story to a news story, from a sporting event to a matter of life and death, just like that,” said ESPN announcer Joe Buck, interviewed on ESPN’s  SportsCenter by Scott Van Pelt after the game was postponed.

“We’ve been through a lot of situations in games where we’ve stood up here and you're watching medical personnel, make sure somebody's okay down on the field, you think they’re going through, a blow to the head or something along those lines, and it switched,” he said. “It switched quickly and it went from what is typical, everybody gathered around, let's make sure this player is OK,  to those who were on the field in his immediate vicinity administering CPR and really pounding on his chest and a lot of that was not on television.” 

“We were sitting here and I'm looking at Troy [Aikman, who broadcasts games with Buck on ESPN] and he's looking at me and it was like, oh my God, this is not what you expected to see. And now is he OK? And it went on and on and on and then that's when the players were gathered around so tight that it was hard to even see what was going on,” Buck said.

“So this took your breath away. I’m sick to my stomach. If you’re asking me how I feel, which nobody cares, but that’s what it feels like being here in this stadium tonight, witnessing what we saw right around midfield,” he said.

Player safety has been emerging as an important issue with the NFL, with key players being knocked out of games because of head injuries.

During the suspension ESPN aired commercials for advertisers including GE, Apple and Capital One. It later appeared the network shifted to showing promos and public service announcements. 

Here is the NFL's  statement on the situation:

Tonight’s Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game has been postponed after Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin collapsed, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced.

Hamlin received immediate medical attention on the field by team and independent medical staff and local paramedics. He was then transported to a local hospital where he is in critical condition.

Our thoughts are with Damar and the Buffalo Bills. We will provide more information as it becomes available.

The NFL has been in constant communication with the NFL Players Association which is in agreement with postponing the game. ■

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.