NFL handling horrific tragedy just right

Praising Roger Goodell and his football empire doesn’t come naturally. Corporate pomposity doesn’t inspire warmth and fuzziness around here.

But drilling the league for how it handled the suspension of Monday night’s Bills-Bengals game is unwarranted. It’s hard to grasp how it could have been better.

Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin stopped Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. Higgins went down; Hamlin went down.

Higgins got up. Hamlin got up, managed two tentative steps, and dropped back to the turf.

He had suffered a cardiac arrest.

Help came from both sidelines. En masse, Buffalo’s roster surrounded its friend as medical personnel restarted Hamlin’s heart.

Once the ambulance began its trip to the hospital, game officials met with stunned coaches, players from both teams exchanged hugs, many of them cried.

ESPN commentators reported never having seen anything like this. Similar scenes have played out before on football fields reserved for pros, colleges and high schools.

In the moment, that matters little.

When such unspeakable horror slaps us in our kissers, reactions tend to be rooted in the shallow end of the pontification:

Football is a violent game.

It is impossible to fully protect football players against injuries.

Football players can’t play scared.

Professional football players know the risks that they are being paid to ignore.

Monday night, no one, including the officials, had an action plan in mind. Then the league joined the discussion.

First reports indicated that the teams would be given five minutes to prepare for the game’s resumption. NFL folks say that didn’t happen.

Multiple conversations ensued – refs, coaches, players and NFL suits at the home office in New York searched for the proper way forward.

It took awhile. It had to.

The urgency went beyond the money, though that certainly was a consideration, as it is whenever business is part of the equation.

There should be no criticism of acknowledging that the NFL is a business. An unusual business, but still a business.

Nothing good would come from delaying the final week of the regular season or wiping it out completely. The Bills-Bengals would be finished only if it has a bearing on the playoffs.

From Monday night to Wednesday, the NFL has been prudent without turning cold-hearted. The Bills went back to work, minus the typical mid-week media availability. Other teams also did away with media availability, including, shockingly enough, Bill Belichick’s Patriots.

Their 1 p.m. Sunday home game against the Pats remains on the schedule.

Hamlin was said to be showing encouraging signs Wednesday, though his condition remained critical.

So far, the NFL has done what it can do.

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