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As Georgia prepares for the College Football Playoff national championship game, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin‘s near-fatal incident during Monday Night Football continues to have a profound impact on the sport. It served as an intense reminder that football is a dangerous game and that life is short.
Although Hamlin remains in critical condition, he is making continued progress in his recovery. The 24-year-old is breathing on his own and his neurological function is “excellent.”
While the positive updates are encouraging for the football community as a whole, Monday’s harrowing event touched the lives of athletes on every level. The Bulldogs included.
It is not easy to witness such a scary moment and then return to the field. Even for the biggest game of the year.
Kirby Smart, who has served as the head coach in Athens since 2016, spoke to the media on Saturday and addressed how he handled the situation with his players. Their mental health came first.
Smart was watching film and preparing for TCU during Monday’s game between Cincinnati and Buffalo. He was made aware of Hamlin’s collapse by the school’s 30-year athletic trainer, who was actually with the program when he played in the late 1990s.
On Tuesday morning, Smart met with his players and was joined by the athletic trainer, the team Chaplin, and a mental health specialist. They prayed together, spoke openly together, and addressed the situation from a mental health standpoint.
In addition, Smart and his staff educated players on exactly what happened, and how the medical team is in place to save lives. He also commended the first responders on Monday night.
An emotional Kirby Smart’s full comments are as follow:
Georgia football is not the only team focusing on mental health in the wake of Damar Hamlin’s collapse. Bills quarterback Josh Allen spoke to how he and his teammates continue to process trauma earlier this week.
As the football world continues to process the gravity of the Hamlin situation, it will remain top of mind as the Bulldogs take the field in Los Angeles. Smart wants his players to know that they are in the best possible care and wants to be sure that their mental health is the priority.