Damar Hamlin is in critical condition after he collapsed on the field during Monday's Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game, according to a statement from the National Football League.
Hamlin was transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and the game was officially suspended for the rest of the night.
"Our thoughts are with Damar and the Buffalo Bills. We will provide more information as it becomes available," the league said in a statement. "The NFL has been in constant communication with the NFL Players Association which is in agreement with postponing the game."
The NFL Player's Association also sent their thoughts and prayers for Hamlin, saying "the only thing that matters" is Hamlin's health.
"The NFLPA and everyone in our community is praying for Damar Hamlin. We have been in touch with Bills and Bengals players, and with the NFL. The only thing that matters at this moment is Damar’s health and well being," the association wrote in a tweet.
During the first quarter of Monday night's game, Hamlin was seen tackling Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. Higgins led with his right shoulder, which hit Hamlin in the chest. Hamlin then wrapped his arms around Higgins' shoulders and helmet to drag him down.
After the play, Hamlin got up as if unfazed by the tackle but then suddenly fell backward onto the ground.
FILE - Damar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills tackles Tee Higgins #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter of an NFL football game at Paycor Stadium on Jan. 2, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Medical personnel came out onto the field to attend to Hamlin and a stretcher and backboard were brought out to transport him out of Paycor Stadium. Moments later, an ambulance was seen on the field and the broadcast showed Bills coach Sean McDermott, quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs emotional on the field as they await to get word on Hamlin.
FILE - Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) reacts Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Ryan Bates (71) while personnel attend to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) during the game against the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2, 202 (Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Hamlin was surrounded by stunned players from both teams, and when he was taken off the field 16 minutes later, the Bills gathered in prayer.
"No one’s been through this," longtime NFL quarterback Troy Aikman said on the ESPN telecast. "I’ve never seen anything like it, either."
FILE - Buffalo Bills players huddle and pray after teammate Damar Hamlin #3 collapsed on the field after making a tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at Paycor Stadium on Jan. 02, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
The game was suspended 21 minutes after the injury, and players walked off the field slowly. The injury he sustained wasn’t immediately clear.
"I’ve never seen anything like it since I was playing," NFL executive Troy Vincent, a six-time Pro Bowl cornerback during his career, said in the conference call early Tuesday morning. "Immediately, my player hat went on, like, how do you resume playing after seeing a traumatic event in front of you?"
Hamlin’s uniform was cut off as he was attended to by medical personnel. ESPN reported on its telecast that Hamlin was also given oxygen.
Vincent said the league took no steps toward restarting the game and did not ask players to begin a five-minute warmup period as ESPN's broadcasters had announced.
"It never crossed our mind to talk about warming up to resume play," Vincent said. "That’s ridiculous. That’s insensitive. That’s not a place we should ever be in."
Vincent said the Bills were returning early Tuesday morning to the team facility in Orchard Park, New York, except for a few players who stayed behind with Hamlin.
There was a heavy police presence at Buffalo Niagara International Airport when the team arrived at about 2:45 a.m. A small group of fans gathered across the street from the players' parking area near the airport. Police blocked off the road to allow the players to leave.
The Bengals led 7-3 in the first quarter of a game between teams vying for the top playoff seed in the AFC. Cincinnati entered at 11-4 and leading the AFC North by one game over Baltimore, while AFC East champion Buffalo was 12-3. The unfinished game has major playoff implications as the NFL enters the final week of the regular season, with the wild-card playoff round scheduled to begin on Jan. 14.
Meanwhile, the football world offered their prayers for Hamlin. Players and coaches from both teams were in tears and prayed for the best possible outcome.
The Bills selected Hamlin with the No. 212 overall pick in the sixth round of the 2021 draft. He played in 14 games last season – mostly on the special teams – in his rookie season.
Hamlin was playing his 16th game of the season. He had seen more time on the field as he recorded 91 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
By late Monday night, a community toy drive organized by Hamlin had surged to more than $1.2 million in donations. His stated goal was $2,500.
The Associated Press, FOX News, and Kelly Hayes contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.