January 4, 2023 The latest updates on NFL star Damar Hamlin's condition

By Jessie Yeung, Sophie Tanno, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT) January 5, 2023
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9:52 p.m. ET, January 4, 2023

"Monday Night Football" telecast in which Hamlin collapsed was most watched in ESPN history

CNN's Oliver Darcy and Jennifer Korn

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) and offensive tackle Ryan Bates (71) react as medical personnel attend to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) during the game against the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) and offensive tackle Ryan Bates (71) react as medical personnel attend to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) during the game against the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)

The NFL showdown on Monday between the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills was the most-watched “Monday Night Football” telecast in ESPN history, according to preliminary ratings.

The game was postponed in the first quarter after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field,

Nielsen said Wednesday that the broadcast had an average of 23,788,000 viewers across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 from approximately 8:30 pm to 10:09 pm. The massive audience makes it the most-watched “Monday Night Football” broadcast since the NFL moved the series to ESPN in 2006, surpassing the previous record of 21.8 million viewers for a Packers-Vikings game in 2009.

During game play, ESPN averaged 21.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings. That audience then grew to 23.9 million viewers between 9 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. when ESPN aired news coverage of Hamlin’s collapse.

An ESPN spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday that, given the special circumstances around Monday’s game, it was not clear whether the viewership numbers would be factored into the season average or used for historical purposes.

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7:41 p.m. ET, January 4, 2023

Indianapolis Colts' Rodney Thomas II details visiting Hamlin in the hospital

From CNN's Jacob Lev

Indianapolis Colts rookie safety Rodney Thomas II detailed visiting his childhood friend and high school teammate Damar Hamlin in the hospital while speaking to reporters on Wednesday.

Thomas said he had no idea what had happened to Hamlin until his dad Facetimed him. Thomas said he got in his car and drove to the University of Cincinnati medical center to be with Hamlin.

"I had a goal," Thomas said. "I knew where I was going, so I just got on the road and I just went. Laser-focused."

Thomas said he held Hamlin's hand and spoke to him.

"I know he could hear me," Thomas said. "Even if he couldn't hear me, it didn't matter. I said what I had to say."

Thomas met Hamlin at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh where the two were teammates and also became close friends, according to the Colts website. Thomas said he and Hamlin talked every day and even spoke before Monday's game.  

"It calmed me way down," Thomas said of being able to see Hamlin in the hospital. "It made the trip home a lot easier. I could go home and know he's gonna be straight, I got him. We all got him. Everybody's behind him. You see what's going on, everybody's behind him. And when he walks out of there and he sees the support he has, it's going to be a real special day."

The Colts are scheduled to play the Houston Texans on Sunday. Thomas said he will have Hamlin on his mind during the game. 

"I'm putting it right where it's gotta be — right in my mind and playing for him, playing for what he represents," Thomas said.

Thomas added that he has "no doubt" Hamlin will walk out of the hospital on his own.

"No doubt in my mind," Thomas said. "He's a fighter. No other thought in my mind of him walking out under his own power."

Thomas was drafted in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL draft by the Colts out of Yale University. 

7:27 p.m. ET, January 4, 2023

Pregame emergency preparation meeting allowed fast response when Hamlin collapsed, NFL doctor says

From CNN's Katherine Dillinger

The pregame “60-minute meeting” among medical teams and NFL officials was vital to the response when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed during Monday night’s game, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allan Sills said.

“If you ask me, the 60-minute meeting is the most important thing we do on Sundays,” Sills told CNN on Wednesday.

“It happens one hour before kickoff... and it involves everyone on the medical care team from both teams. So the team physicians, the athletic trainers, our independent personnel, which are our unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants, our airway doctors, our visiting team medical liaisons, the paramedics, the ambulance crew and the referee. That whole crew of people gets together one hour before the game, and they review that emergency action plan, they talk specifically about locations of emergency equipment, who’s going to lead if we have a cardiac arrest, how the chain of command will go," he explained. 

“Fans don’t ever see that meeting. It happens underneath the stands,” Sills said. “It’s part of the reason why, in this tragic moment on Monday night, we could have a quick, effective and really transformational response.”

Sills said that the main focus now is on treating Hamlin but that his medical team will continue to search for answers, including possible causes like commotio cordis and myocarditis.

“Many times in these cases, players don’t necessarily have a preexisting history or a preexisting abnormality, and cardiac arrest can occur without any warning," he said.

Sills also said questions of safety are relevant to him as a parent of four and grandfather of nine.

“I let my children and my grandchildren play sports because I think there are tremendous benefits. But what I want to know as a parent is: is that sports league prepared? Do they have an emergency action plan? Do they have bystanders or people who are trained in emergency procedures? Do they have a defibrillator present? To me, those are the key questions, and I also want to make sure the league or the team they’re associated with promotes an atmosphere of safety," he said.

9:42 p.m. ET, January 4, 2023

Biden says he spoke with Hamlin's parents

From CNN's Sam Fossum

President Joe Biden talks briefly with reporters as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House January 4, in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden talks briefly with reporters as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House January 4, in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden said he has spoken with Damar Hamlin's mother and father "at length," but did not provide any details of the conversation.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday confirmed that Biden had seen "the horrific news of Damar Hamlin's cardiac arrest."

"We hope his condition and his health improves quickly," Jean-Pierre said during Tuesday's White House briefing. "And like the rest of the nation, our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family, and his teammates."
6:34 p.m. ET, January 4, 2023

NFL is investigating every possible cause of Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, chief medical officer says

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Dr. Allen Sills speaks during a media call on Wednesday, January 4.
Dr. Allen Sills speaks during a media call on Wednesday, January 4. (NFL)

The NFL is investigating every possible cause behind the cardiac arrest of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, which resulted in his collapse mid-game against the Cincinnati Bengals, according to the NFL’s chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills. 

“I know there's been a lot of theories and a lot of discussion about commotio cordis, and that certainly is possible,” Sills said Wednesday on a press call.

Commotio cordis happens when severe trauma to the chest disrupts the heart’s electrical charge, causing dangerous fibrillations. 

Sills said it is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning it might be the diagnosis if doctors don’t find any other causes.

“You have to have the right type of blow hitting at the right spot on the chest with the right amount of force at just the right time in that cardiac cycle. So a lot of things have to line up for that to happen,” Sills said.

Doctors will look for any potential congenital or other abnormalities with Hamlin’s heart, he said. Every player gets a physical before each season, and doctors take a detailed medical history, which includes American Heart Association screening guidelines related to potential cardiac issues.

Sills said any time a player is evacuated from the field, the NFL and its medical experts do a detailed review of what happened. They will also look specifically at the role of protective equipment. 

“I think that’s something that certainly we want to look at,” he said. “We do know that padding over the sternum can be protective to blows in situations where commotio cordis is a consideration, so that is something that certainly will be discussed.”

Currently, players’ shoulder pads typically fit in an area that covers the sternum, he said.

Sills said that in some cases, the medical team will not be able to determine what caused the problem.

Regardless of the cause, what helped in this situation was that the NFL had the right people and equipment in place to provide “an extremely rapid response,” he said.”

6:25 p.m. ET, January 4, 2023

Tom Brady and Russell Wilson among players who have donated to Hamlin's charity toy drive

From CNN's Wayne Sterling

Tom Brady and Russell Wilson
Tom Brady and Russell Wilson (Getty Images)

Multiple NFL teams and players have donated to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin's GoFundMe toy drive charity.

Indianapolis Colts and owner Jim Irsay donated $25,003, the NFL team told CNN Wednesday. 

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the team contributed $18,003. The Patriots wrote on Twitter Wednesday, "In Jewish culture, 18 symbolizes “chai” or “life", while 3 represents Hamlin’s number."

Also donating were the Houston Texans who gave $10,003 and the Washington Commanders who gave $5,000, both teams told CNN.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady as well as Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara donated $10,000 apiece.

New Orleans quarterback Andy Dalton and his wife, JJ, gave $3,000 to Hamlin's charity.

Dalton talked about his special bond with the Buffalo Bills' fan base.

"I think this has been something that I have personally been affected by, especially with that happening to a Bills player, the Bills fan base," Dalton said. "The support of Buffalo have donated to my foundation through a win. 
"Now this is something completely different. This is a tragedy that something happened and so one way to show our support is we wanted to give back. ...The donation is small but we're really thinking about him and praying that he's going to push through with everything."

Fantasy leagues are donating too, according to a GoFundMe.

“A lot of fantasy football leagues are donating their prize pots to the fundraiser," the spokesperson told CNN. "You can find at least a handful using the league name as the donor name. For context the MNF football game in which Hamlin got hurt was the final game for most fantasy football playoffs."

The GoFundMe organized by Hamlin has raised more than $6.5 million.  

5:16 p.m. ET, January 4, 2023

Sports commentators Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe feud on air over controversial Damar Hamlin tweet

From CNN's Nathaniel Meyersohn

Skip Bayless spent a third straight day defending his controversial tweet about Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, this time during a tense exchange Wednesday with his Fox Sports talk show co-host Shannon Sharpe.

Sharpe, a former NFL player and member of the NFL Hall of Fame, returned to the duo's talk show "Undefeated" Wednesday after missing Tuesday's show. His absence followed co-host Bayless' widely criticized tweet questioning whether the NFL should have ended the Bills' game Monday against the Cincinnati Bengals after Hamlin collapsed on the field. Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after a hit to his chest area.

During the incident Monday, Bayless tweeted: "no doubt the NFL is considering postponing the rest of this game - but how? This late in the season, a game of this magnitude is crucial to the regular-season outcome ... which suddenly seems so irrelevant."

Bayless later followed up with a tweet, saying the controversy surrounding that tweet was a misunderstanding of his intention.

On Wednesday, the hosts of "Undisputed" immediately got into an argument at the beginning of the show.

"I've never seen anybody have to be revived and fight for their life on the field," Sharpe said during his opening monologue. "Skip tweeted something, and although I disagreed with the tweet, and hopefully Skip would take it down. But I wanted..."

Bayless immediately interrupted, saying "I'm not going to take it down, because I stand by what I tweeted."

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3:54 p.m. ET, January 4, 2023

New York Giants head coach on Damar Hamlin: "He's a tremendous young man"

From CNN's Wayne Sterling

New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll coaches from the sidelines during the Giants' game against the Indianapolis Colts on January 1.
New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll coaches from the sidelines during the Giants' game against the Indianapolis Colts on January 1. (Seth Wenig/AP)

New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll spoke fondly about Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on Wednesday.

"Lot of us have been around Damar. We offer our prayers to him, his family, to the people in that organization. They've been through a lot,” the former Bills offensive coordinator said at a news conference. 

“This is tragic, tragic to see. Feel for Damar most importantly, his family, but all the players and coaches that are around him every day. He’s a tremendous young man and just pray for recovery. It was tough.”

Daboll arrived at the news conference wearing a Giants hat with the number three stitched on it to honor Hamlin, the team said.

"It's been difficult the last couple of days," he said on returning to work. "It's a relationship business and when something like that happens to people that mean a lot to you or even if you don't know him, you have just a great amount of respect for, it really doesn't really matter what job you do, but having been around the young man, know him, know the type of person he is, that's tough."

3:04 p.m. ET, January 4, 2023

NFL hasn't discussed whether Patriots and Bills game will be postponed, executive says

From CNN's Wayne Sterling

The NFL hasn't discussed whether Sunday's New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills game will be postponed.

"We have not had that discussion. We have literally ... just constantly talking to the clubs and in particular, the Bills," Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations said at a league virtual news conference on Wednesday. "It's really important that we just keep the pulse of the coach and the players and don't get in front of that. 

"We'll allow [Bills head coach Sean McDermott] and his team and his staff and the players which are the most important thing here to guide us if we have to make that decision, collectively with the club and what's best for Sean and his team and the players."

Vincent said, "Everything is being considered," when asked what options the league had in order for the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals game to take place — from changing schedules to possibly pushing back the playoffs a week or eliminating the bye week ahead of the Super Bowl.

"Those guiding principles that took us into the 2020 season with Covid, all of those things will be things that guide us through this conversation and making sure the proper equity is in place."

He added: "It may not be perfect but it will allow those that are participating who have earned that right to play to continue to play."