CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals receiver Tee Higgins said he’s “in a good place right now” after hearing from Damar Hamlin’s mother about his improvement on Thursday.
Higgins was involved in the hit that came right before the Buffalo Bills safety went into cardiac arrest on the field during the game Monday night. Doctors say Hamlin has made “remarkable improvement” in the last 24 hours.
“Obviously it’s been hard, just because you know I had something to do with the play (and) whatnot,” Higgins said in his first public comments since Hamlin collapsed and the game was suspended. But “everyone has been making me feel whole again. I talked to his mom and everything is OK, he’s doing good, so I’m in a good place right now.”
Higgins said Hamlin’s mother told him “she’s thinking of me and praying for me and things like that.
“And suddenly she’s telling me that he’s OK. And just all the positive stuff,” the third-year wideout said. “I mean it feels good just knowing that he’s OK, he’s doing better, and it makes me feel better inside.”
Higgins said it took him a beat or two after the play on Monday night to notice something was seriously wrong. Replays showed Hamlin stand up after tackling Higgins and a few seconds later fall straight backward.
“Me being a football player, I’m thinking he just flopped, one of my guys bumped him,” Higgins said. “I just seen the fall. I looked again, and I seen what happened, and I just turned my head and trying not to think about it. So I knew it was something crazy and something tragic.”
Medical personnel got Hamlin’s heart started again with CPR and defibrillation. An ambulance rolled onto the field, and he was rushed to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
“You know, it was hard (to see),” Higgins said. “Obviously, (I) wasn’t in a good place to play the rest of that game, so I’m kind of glad that we chose not to play.”
While the Bengals prepared for their next game, 430 miles away (700 kilometers), the Bills addressed reporters on Thursday for the first time since the terrifying scene unfolded.
As a 37-minute news conference involving Buffalo coach Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen came to an end, Allen stayed seated and said he wanted express support for Higgins.
“I do want to say one more thing: I haven’t reached out to Tee. I hope that he got some relief today. I saw some stuff on Twitter. And people should not be attacking him whatsoever. And I’m glad that Damar’s family came out and said that. And hopefully he found some relief today. Because that’s a football play. And I hope that he doesn’t hold that upon himself because there’s nothing else that he could have done in that situation.”
Back in Cincinnati, Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd said he knew something was wrong when he tried to talk to Hamlin after he collapsed.
Boyd and Hamlin both grew up in the Pittsburgh area and played college football at Pitt.
“I was trying to speak to him, and he wasn’t giving me anything,” Boyd said. “And just seeing that, and then (I) just kind of went shocked. But it still didn’t hit me yet, you know, because that’s a football play. But once everybody was coming over, and it was getting kind of serious. It kind of touched me in a way to where, man, you just can’t take things for granted. You know, like, regardless of who we’re playing against, that’s my brother, no matter what.”
Higgins said it was an emotional release to get back to practice on Wednesday and Thursday. The Bengals host the Baltimore Ravens in the regular-season finale on Sunday.
“It’s hard to forget about, but at the end of the day we are professional football players,” he said. “We do have a job to do, and you just have to shift your focus and focus on the Ravens.”