Giants hold Damar Hamlin in hearts as they return to practice


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The Giants came together for an unprecedented Wednesday morning team meeting. The primary focus was not on football but the emotional and mental state of players and coaches dealing with the shocking aftereffects of the ongoing and serious Damar Hamlin medical concerns, with several in attendance directly linked to the 24-year-old safety from time shared together with the Buffalo Bills.

This was a midweek workday unlike any other for the Giants, who were off on Tuesday.

“When you actually see something like that — it leaves you speechless,’’ Saquon Barkley said. “The first text I got was from my mom. My mom was just saying how bad she feels for Damar’s family. That’s a mother’s, that’s a parent’s worst nightmare. It definitely does put it in perspective.” “Me having kids seeing that — it’s a physical sport, it’s a game I love to play, but at any given moment, it makes you just appreciate all the little things. Going out to practice, spend time with your family, spend time with your teammates, your friends and even stuff like this. Any moment, anything can happen.’

Daniel Jones hands the ball off to Saquon Barkley at Giants practice on Wednesday.
Robert Sabo

Giants head coach Brian Daboll was with the Bills in 2021 with Hamlin, who was still in intensive care and fighting for his life Wednesday evening after going into cardiac arrest on the field Monday night in Cincinnati.

Daboll said he was watching the game live and that this medical emergency is “heavy on my heart.’’

Before getting into any football with his players during the team meeting, Daboll addressed Hamlin’s condition. After consulting with general manager Joe Schoen — who, like Daboll, came to the Giants from the Bills — Daboll called for three individuals to speak to the team: Ronnie Barnes, the senior vice president of medical services and head trainer; Dr. Lani Lawrence, the Giants’ director of wellness and clinical services; and team chaplain Gian Paul Gonzalez. Gonzalez offered a prayer for Hamlin’s recovery.

“I just think when a situation like that occurs, it probably weighs heavy on everybody’s hearts and minds,’’ Daboll said. “I just thought that was important, to let those three individuals speak.’’

Wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, one of six Giants players who were teammates of Hamlin’s last season with the Bills, said the meeting was helpful and necessary.

A special cap was made for Damar Hamlin when the New York Giants practiced on Wednesday.
Robert Sabo

“Just getting insight from all the doctors and people, just having that reassurance that there are a lot of people to help us just in case there is a moment like that, that happens again in the future with anyone,’’ Hodgins said. “Just good for the mental health side of things too which is knowing that there are people there to help but also that there’s people within this building that we can talk to that if we are feeling a certain type of way or if we’re a little anxious or nervous, or anything, that there’s people on our side.’’

Daboll said “it was tragic to see’’ Hamlin go down after making a routine tackle while taking a hit to the chest area by Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin received CPR on the field from medical personnel, who were able to restart his heartbeat.

The Bills on Wednesday took to Twitter to update Hamlin’s condition, stating he “remains in the ICU in critical condition with signs of improvement noted yesterday and overnight.’’

Hamlin is expected to remain in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Quarterback Davis Webb often played safety on the scout team last season in Buffalo, working alongside Hamlin. Webb was watching the game Monday night in the living room of his apartment with his girlfriend and her parents. When Hamlin went down, Webb needed to be alone and went into his bedroom.

Saquon Barkley talks to the media after the Giants’ practice on Wednesday.
Robert Sabo

“I can’t find anything negative to say about him as a human or as a player, he’s just a good dude,’’ Webb said. “Damar is one of those guys who separates himself from others. He’s a strong, strong individual. I know if anyone can get through what he’s been dealt it’s him.’’

Daboll said he has been in touch with people he knows with the Bills and offered his support.

“Not that I can do much,’’ he said. “Those people mean a lot to both of us [Daboll and Schoen]. Being there for four years, I have a ton of respect for people in that building.’’

Daboll was the offensive coordinator with the Bills last season when Hamlin was a rookie safety, a sixth-round draft pick from the University of Pittsburgh.

“He’s a tremendous young man,’’ Daboll said, “and just pray for a recovery.’’

Daboll said no player expressed to him a desire not to play in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Bills safety Damar Hamlin before a game against the Ravens on Oct. 2, 2022.
Bills safety Damar Hamlin before a game against the Ravens on Oct. 2, 2022.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cornerback Nick McCloud shared the defensive back room with Hamlin last season in Buffalo and grew emotional speaking about the frightening situation.

“His heart is genuine, he loves his community, he loves the kids in his community,’’ McCloud said. “We don’t really understand why God did it to him but it’s obvious there’s a reason he chose him.’’

Barkley said he assumes what happened to Hamlin “would go through your mind’’ the next time he takes the field for his violent chosen profession.

“You know it’s a dangerous sport,’’ Barkley said. “Obviously, you’ve seen guys, the injuries. Unfortunately, you see some guys get paralyzed. You never see, I don’t really want to speak too much on the medical, because I’m not really 100 percent familiar with it, but you’ve never seen that. I’ve never seen that.”“It was like, ‘Whoa.’ It really puts you on notice because that’s not something you just ever think of. You never, ever see that, envision that happening until it actually happened. It’s definitely a shock. The only thing you can do is just hope for the best and pray for the best and continue to keep him in your prayers and his family in your prayers.’

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