The Bears began their practice week on Wednesday morning as players returned to Halas Hall for the first time since seeing Bills safety Damor Hamlin suffer cardiac arrest in Monday’s game against the Bengals.
Hamlin’s condition was foremost on everyone’s mind, and president George McCaskey and coach Matt Eberflus addressed it with the players upon arrival. Eberflus said that his players “see that reflection in the mirror,” meaning they know they are taking the same risk every time they play.
“I was kind of uncomfortable,” David Montgomery said about going back to work. “You put yourself in the position and understand that it could be you. It’s definitely at the forefront of my mind because … he’s out there fighting for his life.
Hamlin remained unconscious in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, and Bill issued an update on Wednesday saying there are “signs of improvement.”
The NFL has not decided what to do about the Bills-Bengals game, which ended at the 6:12 mark of the first quarter after Hamlin was hit while tackling Bengals wide receiver Tye Higgins. Hamlin got up, then collapsed to the ground – an extremely rare image, even in such a violent sport.
Every football player knows that this is possible. The Bears were rocked by their most dire moment of the season last month when right guard Taven Jenkins was taken off on a stretcher with a neck injury. He was admitted to hospital, and the injury proved to be less serious than feared at the time.
But even then, Jenkins was clearly conscious and moving his legs. It was unprecedented for the players to see Hamlin motionless on the field.
Center Sam Mustifer said, “You’re just looking for that thumbs up.” “And there was no thumb.”
A stoic man by his own description, Mustifer wept while sympathizing with Hamlin’s family.
“Her mom didn’t sign her up for it; She thought she was going to see her baby on Monday Night Football,” he said. “Being a parent, it’s hard, man. I can’t imagine.
“I want my son to play soccer. I agree. I love the sport, I love what it’s taught me, life lessons, responsibility, accountability, teamwork. And I want my son out there I can’t even imagine how that would feel. I know how my mom would feel. I know how my dad would feel.
Bears backup quarterback Nathan Peterman, who will start against the Vikings on Sunday, played one season with Hamlin at Pitt and chatted with him after the game when the Bears hosted the Bills a week and a half ago.
“I just went up to him and said, ‘Hey man, it’s great to see you’re doing well,'” Peterman recalled. “Told him I’m happy for him, proud of him. I’m praying he moves on.
Nothing seemed right at Halas Hall as the hospitalization of Hamlin sent the league into an uproar. Eberflus encouraged the players to meet with team chaplain Teddy Matthews and mental health therapist Carla Saber.
Eventually, they return to what looks like a normal day of preparation to face the Vikings. While the NFL is considering alternatives to the Bills-Bengals game, it is keeping the Week 18 schedule intact.
When asked if he felt concerned about the game, Montgomery said it was “incredibly difficult” to divulge the Hamlin situation, but “I’m playing Sunday. It’s my job.”
The Bears opted for a walk-through that was closed to the media and kept their locker room closed as well. Some players did not feel comfortable discussing Hamlin.
“It will be difficult for many players,” Mustifar said. “But I will do my best.”
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