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NFL, ESPN Clash Over On-Air Reports That Teams Were Given '5 Minutes' to Warm Up, After Player's Collapse

Bills Bengals Game NFL ESPN Dispute

The NFL says it has no idea why ESPN said on-air that the teams were given “five minutes” to warm up and possibly resume play, after Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on field — to which the sports cabler countered, “we reported what we were told.”

During the first quarter of the Jan. 2, Monday Night Football match-up between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, Hamlin stood up after a tackle, but collapsed right after. After being treated on the field by emergency medical personnel, Hamlin was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center via ambulance, and the game was temporarily suspended, eventually postponed. In a tweet posted the next morning, the Bills said that Hamlin had “suffered a cardiac arrest” after the hit in question. “He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.”

Throughout the ordeal, ESPN’s Joe Buck said on-air a few times that the teams had been given a five-minute window to begin warming up, so that the game could resume play. And indeed, some players were seen warming up on the sidelines.

But Troy Vincent, NFL EVP of football operations, said in a press conference he had no idea where that “five minutes” notion came from.

“Look, I’ve never seen anything like it since I’ve been playing,” said the former NFL defensive back, “so immediately my ‘player hat’ went on. How do you resume playing when such a traumatic event occurs in front of you in real time? And that’s the way we were thinking about it, the Commissioner and I.”

“I’m not sure where that [‘five minutes’ messaging] from,” Vincent added. “Frankly, there was no time period for the players to get warmed up. [T]he only thing that we asked was that [referee] Shawn [Smith] communicate with both head coaches to make sure they had the proper time inside the locker room to discuss what they felt like was best.

“It never crossed our mind to talk about warming up to resume play,” he stressed. “That’s ridiculous. That’s insensitive. And that’s not a place that we should ever be in.”

ESPN, however, maintains that Buck did not pull the information out of thin air.

“There was constant communication in real time between ESPN and league and game officials,” ESPN said in a statement. “As a result of that, we reported what we were told in the moment and immediately updated fans as new information was learned. This was an unprecedented, rapidly-evolving circumstance. All night long, we refrained from speculation.”

Hamlin spent Monday night in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and remains there “in critical condition,” the Bills said in a Tuesday update. “We are grateful and thankful for the outpouring of support we have received thus far.”

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