CINCINNATI — The Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals was postponed after Bills safety Damar Hamlin, 24, collapsed on the field after a collision in the first quarter and was taken away by ambulance in critical condition, according to a statement from the N.F.L.
With six minutes remaining in the first quarter, and the Bills trailing, 7-3, Hamlin tackled Bengals receiver Tee Higgins after a 13-yard catch. Higgins rammed into Hamlin at full speed, appearing to hit him in the head and chest area. Hamlin quickly stood up, took two steps, collapsed backward and his body went limp.
Medical personnel administered CPR and attended to him for 10 minutes as players from both teams were visibly upset, some shedding tears on the sideline while others circled together and knelt in prayer. One medical professional appeared to administer an IV. Hamlin was later placed on a stretcher and transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Fans in attendance at Paycor Stadium, who had been silent through the ordeal, applauded as the ambulance departed. A Bills spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a date for resuming the game was not announced.
Hamlin, a second-year player drafted out of Pittsburgh, had been in the starting lineup since September because of injuries in the Buffalo secondary. Within an hour of his hospitalization, a toy drive led by Hamlin’s charitable foundation had received more than $650,000 via a crowdfunding website.
Players from around the N.F.L. quickly voiced their concern on social media. “Praying hard… please be okay man,” Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes said in a post to his Twitter account.
“The game is not important,” J.J. Watt of the Arizona Cardinals wrote in a post. “Damar Hamlin’s life is important. Please be ok. Please.”
Earlier in the first quarter, Bills cornerback Taron Johnson left the game with a head injury after attempting to tackle Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst. Johnson was attended to on the field by team trainers for several minutes before walking off.
Hamlin’s was the latest of a slew of high-profile injuries this season that have prompted fresh criticism of the N.F.L. over player safety. On Sunday, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Nick Foles left a game after being sacked by the Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux, who celebrated the hit as Foles appeared to convulse on the field. Foles was carted off but was listed with rib injury.
On Sept. 29, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was transported to the hospital after slamming his head against the turf in a game against the Bengals. Tagovailoa immediately raised his hands and his fingers were splayed, a gesture called a “fencing response” that can be a sign of brain injury.
Tagovailoa was diagnosed with a concussion and later traveled back with the team, but the moment called greater attention to an investigation launched the week prior, jointly conducted by the league and the N.F.L. Players Association, into how the Dolphins responded after he appeared to suffer a concussion in a game against the Bills four days earlier.
The investigation found that the team had followed the league’s concussion protocol, but the N.F.L. and the players’ union agreed to amend the procedures to prohibit a player from returning to play if he shows ataxia, a term describing impaired balance or coordination caused by damage to the brain or nerves. Under the previous protocol, players who exhibited “gross motor instability” — difficulty getting up or walking, for example — could return to play if doctors decided there was an orthopedic reason for his unsteadiness.
Tagovailoa was again diagnosed with a concussion after being sacked on Dec. 25 in a game against the Green Bay Packers.
This is a developing story and will be updated.