Although he doesn’t watch much Monday Night Football, Bill Belichick still loved the Bills-Bengals game. Largely, he said, it was because the Patriots would face the Bills in Week 18 in a short week.
But when Buffalo safety guard Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field, the ensuing sequence of events reminded Belichick of another horrific injury he had suffered. In 1997, while Belichick was coaching the Jets under Bill Parcells, former Lions linebacker Reggie Brown suffered a serious spinal cord injury that ended his career.
He said the game in which Brown was injured appeared to be a “normal game” with former Jets running back Adrian Murrell rushing the ball and getting tackled. But when everyone got back into the group and Brown didn’t move, Belichick said it became a “very scary game” that he remembers to this day.
Detroit Lions players and staff pray on the field after Reggie Brown was taken off the field in an ambulance during the fourth quarter of their game with the New York Jets on Sunday, December 21, 1997 in Pontiac, Michigan.ASSOCIATED PRESSReggie Brown is assessed by a coach as Detroiters Antonio London (55) and Stephen Boyd (57) watch in the fourth quarter of their game against the New York Jets on Sunday December 21, 1997.ASSOCIATED PRESSBill Belichick was the Jets’ defense coordinator from 1997 to 1999.Boston Globe via Getty Images
“Life is bigger than this game,” Belichick said. “[Monday] is one of those humbling moments for all of us who stand out.”
Brown had to be resuscitated before being wheeled onto a board, into an ambulance and off the field, Belichick recalled. It was a “rather lengthy process” similar to Monday’s.
“Not that I have all the answers because I certainly don’t have that, but I was there and experienced it and I think I have some sense of what the players and teams, the coaches, went through on Monday night.” said Belichick. “Like I said, it’s something you just never forget.”
Belichick began his Thursday press conference with an opening eight-minute speech about Hamlin and what the Bills, the Bengals and the entire NFL community have endured over the past four days. Belichick, 70, has reached out to other coaches in the NFL and other leagues in addition to his players, he said.
Damar Hamlin points to the crowd during the third quarter of a game between the Bills and the Vikings at Highmark Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Buffalo, New York.Getty Images
Belichick said the morning’s update — about Hamlin gradually awakening from his medically-induced sedation at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center — was “great news” and “encouraging for all of us.” Mac Jones, Belichick’s quarterback, said the first question Hamlin later wrote to doctors about who won the game between the Bengals and Bills was “pretty wild.” Doctors went on to tell Hamlin that he had won the “game of life.”
“I think every update we get in the dressing room everyone’s super excited to hear he’s getting better every time,” Jones said in his press conference Thursday. “We’re all super excited. …You can tell he’s a competitor, right? That’s the first thing he asks about and so on. I think that’s who we are as humans.
The positive developments continued into Friday when the breathing tube was removed and Hamlin communicated with his Bills teammates via Zoom during a team briefing.
The Patriots will travel to Buffalo and face the Bills on Sunday with a possible playoff spot.