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NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent pushed back once again on Wednesday against the ESPN contention it reported on its broadcast that players from the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills had five minutes to warm up before resuming play in Monday night’s game after all watched Damar Hamlin suffer a cardiac arrest and collapse on the field.
The game was in fact suspended in no small measure because that’s what Vincent, who heads football operations, decided. But the league’s broadcast partner has said it reported what it was being told in real time by the “league and game officials.”
How did the report, conveyed by play-by-play man Joe Buck, get onto ESPN?
“I’m not sure how it got on air but that night I was completely, my mic was completely open,” Vincent said Wednesday. “…I’m the center resource. I’m the center communicator talking to Shawn Smith, who is the referee who is talking to both head coaches.
“At no time in my discussion in that hour-long time frame did we ever, even myself, reference and the mic is open and there are multiple, multiple people receiving information from me to give any directive to getting players ready to play.”
Vincent said his communication to the referee and to the coaches was to head into the locker rooms.
“The only directive coming from myself as the emergency team was on the field caring for Damar was to Shawn Smith, who’s the ref, I need you to get both of the coaches together and ask that they take their team to the locker rooms,” he said.
“We’re going to suspend play. It’s important that both coach Taylor and coach McDermott, because it was just raw emotions watching, and I thought it was extremely inappropriate for millions and millions of people to watch this raw emotion as the medical teams tried to care for this young man, get them back to the locker room.
“So that is the communication that took place on-field, real time, with multiple people listening in. That was the only directive.”
ESPN on Tuesday released a short statement about its report. The statement reads:
“There was constant communication in real time between ESPN and league and game officials.
“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.”
This is the second time Vincent has addressed this issue. The first time was a couple of hours after the game on a conference call with reporters.
I was asked a question about this return to play. And I felt like I snapped or was hasty in my answer but I want to be clear. Just that suggestion was inappropriate. It was insensitive. And frankly and lacked both empathy and compassion for Damar’s situation, who was still in the woods and fighting for his life. It was just so insensitive to think we were even thinking about returning to play.
“I don’t know who said it and I really don’t care. But the only thing that mattered to myself, the team here, the folks in the stadium, the coaches, was the health and the wellness of Damar. And getting those coaches back in the locker room so they could look their players in their eyes and see who they are, they were hurting and there was a lot of pain. And talking to the commissioner and communicating with everyone, it was just important we just couldn’t play.”