Uncle says Damar Hamlin still ‘fighting,’ family grateful for support

The family of Damar Hamlin on Tuesday thanked the public for its support and asked for continued prayers for the safety of the Buffalo Bills, who remains hospitalized in critical condition after going into cardiac arrest on the field in Cincinnati on Monday night.

“On behalf of our family, we want to express our sincere gratitude for the love and support shown to Damar during this challenging time. We are deeply moved by the prayers, kind words, and donations from fans around the country,” the family said in a statement released Tuesday morning.

“We also want to acknowledge the dedicated first responders and healthcare professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who have provided exceptional care to Damar. We feel so blessed to be part of the Buffalo Bills organization and to have their support. We also want to thank Coach Taylor and the Bengals for everything they’ve done. Your generosity and compassion mean the world to us. Please keep Damar in your prayers. We will release updates as soon as we have them.”

Dorrian Glenn, Hamlin’s uncle, told ESPN’s Coley Harvey outside the hospital Tuesday evening that Hamlin is sedated and “improving from where he was yesterday,” adding, “We are just going to continue to pray, and I know he is in great hands with the medical team he has here. They have been doing a tremendous job.”

Hamlin’s agent, Ron Butler, told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that Hamlin’s oxygen levels have improved.

Glenn said Hamlin had to be resuscitated twice — once on the field at Paycor Stadium, and once after he arrived at the hospital. There is also concern surrounding potential lung damage, he said.

“I know he’s still here, I know he’s fighting,” Glenn told ESPN. “We appreciate all the prayers and support we have been getting from people all over — not just the country, but the world. … It really means a difference for my family to see that, and I know it’ll mean a difference to Damar when he sees that.”

Glenn said he was watching the game with relatives in Pittsburgh and described the emotions among the family members that ensued Monday night.

“First we thought it was just a normal hit, and we thought that he popped back up … maybe take a couple plays off and get back,” Glenn said. “But the way my nephew [Hamlin’s 7-year-old younger brother, Damir] — I have never heard him scream and cry like that. And then, when it was 10 minutes gone past, and then 20 minutes gone past, I knew something was serious.”

Glenn continued, “Once they canceled the game, we loaded up two carloads and we drove from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, just to be here to support my nephew.”

They arrived in Cincinnati early Tuesday; the cities are about 300 miles apart.

Asked what he witnessed when he had the chance to see Hamlin in the hospital, Glenn said, “I am not even going to lie, I turned around. I could not do it. I do not want to see him like that, and I want to wait until he is able to recover and I can actually talk to him and you know, see my nephew again.”

Several teams canceled media availability Tuesday out of respect for Hamlin, including the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs. The Jacksonville Jaguars canceled the rest of their availability after guard Brandon Scherff spoke.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin held his weekly availability Tuesday and said, “It’s a really personal thing for me. Being a Pittsburgher and that young man being a Pittsburgher.

“I’ve known that guy probably since he was about 12,” Tomlin said. “Just got a lot of respect and love for him as a human being. His commitment to the pursuit of his goals and dreams of doing what it is he’s doing right now, which is playing in the NFL, and to watch him make personal decisions and make that a realization, it’s just an honor to get to know young people like that. I had an opportunity to express that to him whenever I see him.”

He added that he had reached out to Bills coach Sean McDermott “to lend whatever assistance I could.”

Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown said in a statement Tuesday morning that the team’s “hearts are with everyone in this unprecedented time — what we can do is support one another.”

“Last night was supposed to be a great night for the NFL and a great showcase for our hometown. Instead, the human side of our sport became paramount … and in that moment, humanity and love rose to the forefront,” Brown said in the statement. “As medical personnel undertook extraordinary measures, both teams demonstrated respect and compassion while fans in the stadium and people around the country bolstered the support for Damar and love for each other.

“The Bengals are thankful for the love and compassion shown by all. Praying for Damar.”

Hamlin, 24, first had his heartbeat restored on the field after suffering cardiac arrest following a hit in the Bills’ game against the Bengals, which was later postponed. CPR was administered to Hamlin on the field for several minutes after he collapsed following his tackle of Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin received oxygen, according to the ESPN broadcast, as he was placed in the ambulance and taken off the field some 16 minutes after he collapsed. He was then driven to the nearby University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Hamlin was selected in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft out of Pittsburgh, with the Bills taking him with the No. 212 overall pick.

“Damar Hamlin is far more than just a football player,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement Tuesday. “He’s a loving son, brother and friend. Damar is a hero to thousands of Pittsburgh kids. Damar, we love you. We are praying for you. Pittsburgh’s always had your back. And now it’s obvious the entire country has your back, too .”

Players and fans from across the NFL rallied to Hamlin’s support, with vigils held in Cincinnati and outside the Bills’ home stadium. In Buffalo, the Bills changed their social media avatar to that of Hamlin’s No. 3 jersey with the words “Pray For Damar.” The league’s 31 other teams quickly followed suit.

The Bills returned home early Tuesday, when they were greeted by a handful of fans watching silently from the side of the road outside Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

“We are vulnerable humans,” Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins said on “SportsCenter.” “Our brother is fighting, and we have taken off all of that armor and we’re just being human. … We’re uniting with just positive vibes and just positive spirits and positive prayer … We’re all human and we try to be our best all we possibly can. And at the end of the day, we are humans, and we have families, and we care and we cry and we’re vulnerable and we have emotion and we feel the same pain that the regular person feels.”

The Pro Football Hall of Fame, meanwhile, announced Tuesday that it has postponed the announcement of the 15 modern-era player finalists for the class of 2023 for at least 24 hours out of respect for Hamlin. The announcement has been tentatively rescheduled for Wednesday at 8 pm ET. The Hall of Fame and NFL Network, which will televise the announcement, will meet Wednesday to determine whether to proceed or continue to delay the news.

ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg and Brooke Pryor and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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