The Carolina Panthers and other NFL teams returned to practice with heavy hearts Wednesday as Bills safety Damar Hamlin remains in the ICU.
It’s been two days since Hamlin collapsed on the field from a cardiac arrest. While we all wait to learn more about his condition, the NFL is supporting its teams by providing mental health support and resources.
On Wednesday, Panthers players spoke for the first time about what happened, though for several, it wasn’t easy.
“I ended up turning my TV off the minute it happened and it was just sad to see,” quarterback P.J. Walker said.
Coach Steve Wilks said safety Kenny Robinson and Damar Hamlin have known each other since middle school and are like brothers.
They excused Robinson from practice Wednesday, possibly longer.
“It’s still breaking my heart to see him going through this because this is somebody I grinded with,” added running back Raheem Blackshear, who played with Hamlin in Buffalo earlier this season.
“My heart goes out to him and his family.”
Panthers tight end Tommy Tremble worked out with Hamlin for months, prior to the NFL draft.
“It was really scary,” Tremble said. “I’ve never seen that before in my life.”
A memo from the league commissioner to all teams this week said each club’s Head of Player Engagement and Team Clinician received information about mental health and support resources that have been made available to players and staff. The memo goes on to say even more resources can be available -- including services on-site -- for any club that wants the assistance.
Tish Guerin, a mental health and wellness consultant with prior experience in the NFL and NASCAR posed a question she says clinicians within every organization should be asking.
“Has this trauma changed how they’re going to approach the game?” she asked.
“They may not be ready to play this week or next week and I think that’s OK,” Guerin added.
“I understand from an entertainment perspective and network perspective and just from a football operations perspective, they’re like, ‘Hey, you know this is the business.’ But the business is people.”
Quarterback P.J. Walker shared his own hesitation following Hamlin’s injury.
“It is one of those things where you question a lot of things, and showing up to work is one of them,” he said.
Walker explained among the reasons he felt comfortable returning to work is the support he’s received from Steve Wilks and the Panthers organization.
Wilks said he reached out to every player on the team and said players and staff prayed for Hamlin and his family before ever starting practice.
The next time NFL teams will take the field is this upcoming Saturday. Many are already paying tribute to Hamlin.
Those games will air on Channel 9 starting Saturday at 3 p.m.
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