THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Rams head Sean McVay said he was having a phone conversation while watching Monday Night Football between the Bills and the Bengals on delay, when he heard a reaction of "pure shock" in the background of the call from the wife of the person he was talking to.
When McVay finally got caught up on the broadcast, he watched as Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed after getting back up after making a routine tackle, and knew it was different than anything he'd seen before based on the players' reactions.
McVay and the Rams spent much of Wednesday discussing that medical emergency experienced by Hamlin – who remains in the Intensive Care Unit at University of Cincinnati Medical Center in critical condition after suffering cardiac arrest after making that tackle – offering support to Hamlin and his family while also processing it themselves.
"Just to start, thoughts and prayers with Damar Hamlin and his family," McVay said as he began his press conference Wednesday afternoon. "You know, when you're watching that the other night and the emotions that you feel, sometimes you get so caught up in the competition in this game and you don't realize the sacrifice and the things that these players do to put themselves out there for a job, but for also the entertainment. It's gut-wrenching, it's chilling, it's emotions that you can't even begin to describe and you just pray for a full recovery."
Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner said they discussed the traumatic event at the beginning of their team meeting Wednesday morning, including what the protocol is in the event it happens to one of them. They also used the meeting as a forum to discuss players' feelings about it, which Wagner said is important when it comes to dealing with those kinds of experiences.
For Wagner, Hamlin's medical emergency brought back memories of the neck injury sustained by former Seahawks teammate Ricardo Lockette against the Cowboys in 2015 that played a role in Lockette retiring from the NFL a little over six months later.
"Obviously, praying for him and wanting him to be healthy and be safe and be good," Wagner said. "Like the rest of the world, kind of just waiting and seeing all the news that could come out. I was unfortunately part of something like this with Ricardo Lockette. Wasn't as extreme, but if the Seahawks didn't do everything that they did, one wrong move, one wrong thing (and) Ricardo wouldn't be even here today. I think you kind of just remind people of that, and try to let people talk and have their feelings, and respect people's feelings and respect how they feel. Whether they have thoughts about the game or whatever the case may be, I think the biggest thing is talking about it, expressing them, letting them out and not holding them in and trying to make a decision or think about these things by yourself."
According to a statement released by the Bills on Wednesday, Hamlin showed signs of improvement Tuesday and overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, but is expected to remain under intensive care while being monitored and treated by his healthcare team.
Though the situation has been distressing, it has also brought many people together – a silver lining McVay and Rams quarterback Baker Mayfield noted on Wednesday.
"We're hoping and praying that he's going to be alright and make full recovery," Mayfield said. "Football is a secondary thought when it comes to a situation like this."