Sports | January 10, 2023 11:19 am

NFL and ESPN Keep Fighting Over Damar Hamlin “5 Minutes” Report

Did the NFL really want the Bills and Bengals to continue playing after Hamlin was injured?

The Bengals and Bills watch Damar Hamlin being attended to after the NFL player suffered cardiac arrest on January 2
The Bengals and Bills may have been asked to play after Damar Hamlin went down.
Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty

As positive news about Bills safety Damar Hamlin‘s recovery from cardiac arrest continues to arrive, details about what the NFL did or did not want to happen on Monday Night Football following his injury also keep coming as the league gears up for Super Wild Card Weekend.

After Hamlin went down and was subsequently treated and removed from the field during the January 2 game between the Bills and Bengals in Cincinnati, ESPN announcer Joe Buck repeatedly said that the NFL had given word to the two teams that they would have five minutes to warm up before resuming play. That never ended up happening as the game was suspended, postponed and then eventually canceled completely.

On a conference call after midnight on Tuesday last week, NFL Executive VP of Communications Troy Vincent pushed back on the notion that the league had given the players a five-minute warning and asked them to take the field, and said that such an action was never even really considered. “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…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.”

Last week, multiple media members, including Buck, refuted what Vincent said on the call and reported that the league did want the game to resume and had mentioned play starting again in five minutes. A new ESPN report also directly contradicts what Vincent had to say after Hamlin’s injury and does not make the NFL look very good.

Per the report, a high-ranking official from either the Bills or Bengals told ESPN that Dawn Aponte, the NFL’s chief football administrator, was being pushed by Vincent to proceed with the game but she would not give in to his wishes.

“The Lord himself could come down, and we were not going to play again,” the source told ESPN. “[Aponte] was getting pressure. She was not getting consistent and direct messaging that she deserved to receive. Whatever crazy nonsense she was getting, man, she held it. She held it strong.”

The source also told ESPN that the ultimate postponement of the game came from the teams involved, not from Vincent and the league office on Park Avenue in New York. “The league did not cancel the game,” the team official said. “The Bills and the Bengals canceled the game.”

Based on what a source who reviewed the ESPN piece told ProFootballTalk, pushback from Vincent and the NFL may be coming. “I know Troy well enough to know this will cause freaking shock waves,” the source said.

Whatever happened, Hamlin got the help he needed and is back in Buffalo. That’s the most important thing.