Let’s start with the important — and wonderful — news: Damar Hamlin has turned the corner. The Bills safety is awake and responsive after going into cardiac arrest during Monday’s suspended game against the Bengals.
Hamlin remains listed in critical condition in an intensive care unit. And he is not yet breathing on his own. But UC Medical Health Center physicians say he appears to have all neurological function and is communicating with them through writing — he even asked who had won the game. They said they cannot project what his long-term recovery looks like, but they are very optimistic.
UC Health Medical Center physicians on Hamlin's reactions upon awaking: "He expressed surprise that he had not been with the world for two days."
They noted his reactions have been gratifying from a medical perspective.
"It appears all cylinders are firing with his brain."
— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) January 5, 2023
As Hamlin’s condition is clarified and thankfully improves, the NFL has to continue to care for him, his family and his teammates and counterparts leaguewide. And while it may feel somewhat trivial in that grand scheme, it also has to move forward with the business at hand of finishing the regular season and moving forward into the postseason.
And if any of this stuff ESPN’s Adam Schefter is talking about is actually on the table, things are getting ridiculous.
Adam Schefter believes the NFL will not look to resume the Bengals vs. Bill game and that league is working towards either a potential neutral site AFC Championship game or 1 seed choosing between getting having a bye or home field with 2 seed getting whatever not picked. pic.twitter.com/MKnRLcRGNQ
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) January 5, 2023
The league has decided it will not restart Bills-Bengals, according to the Associated Press. That’s the smart and right move. So just play the Week 18 games and then go from there. Maybe the games make it simple and either the Bills or Chiefs lose. But if they both win (or both lose), just give the Bills the top seed. They beat Kansas City head-to-head. Them’s the breaks for the Chiefs. A half-game in the win column should not matter.
Picking between a bye and home field advantage would be a debacle, too. Whoever gets first pick will almost assuredly take home field. You think the Bills or Chiefs are worried about having to play the Dolphins or Patriots or Steelers in the wild card round? No way. It would be a totally different story if Aaron Rodgers was sitting there like he will be in the NFC.
Last thing: If a neutral site AFC title game actually happens, it’s the definition of never letting a convenient crisis go to waste. This concept has been floated here and there for years. And it’s hard to imagine the NFL would not find a way to create new revenue streams with it. The shield always wins, you know.
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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]