What happened to Damar Hamlin on Monday night in Cincinnati was heartbreaking and unprecedented. But Bill Belichick -- who's been coaching in the NFL for nearly 50 years -- has a reference point for nearly everything, including the events that transpired in Monday's Bills-Bengals game.
The New England Patriots head coach addressed the media Thursday for the first time since Hamlin collapsed on the field during Monday Night Football and needed CPR to be resuscitated after suffering a cardiac arrest. Belichick was watching the game live when Hamlin collapsed, and said he was reminded "very much" of a similar incident involving Lions linebacker Reggie Brown that he saw happen live while he was the New York Jets' defensive coordinator in 1997.
"It was kind of a normal play," Belichick said. "(Jets running back) Adrian Murrell carried the ball and got tackled, everybody got up and went back to the huddle, and Reggie stayed on the field, didn't move and was unconscious for quite a while ... 10 minutes, something like that."
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Like Hamlin, Brown needed CPR on the field before an ambulance transported him to a nearby hospital. Unlike Monday's Bills-Bengals game, which was postponed after about 40 minutes, the teams resumed play following a roughly 30-minute delay, with Detroit winning 13-10.
"The whole process took a long time," Belichick said. "It must have taken a half hour before he finally was given CPR and revived and then put on the board and put on the ambulance and driven off the field at the Silverdome. It was quite a lengthy process. The teams looked very much like the game Monday night: concern, thought, prayer and kneeling and so forth. It was a very chilling game, and obviously one that I'll never forget."
Belichick emphasized that every situation is different, especially how those involved react. But the longtime head coach believes being on the sideline for the Brown incident gave him an idea of what the Bills and Bengals experienced Monday night.
"Not that I have all the answers because I certainly don't, but I was there and experienced that," Belichick said. "I think I have some sense of what the players and teams, coaches went through Monday night. Like I said, it's something that you just never forget."
The Bills shared an encouraging update Thursday on Hamlin: While he's still "critically ill" at the University of Cincinnati Medical center, the 24-year-old "appears to be neurologically intact" and is "making steady progress." That's very welcome news after amid a harrowing week with Hamlin's life seemingly in the balance. (Belichick also pointed out that Brown made a strong recovery from his injury and is currently active in the Houston area.)
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Belichick said he texted Bills head coach Sean McDermott shortly after the incident and also has reached out to "a number of different people," including NFL coaches and coaches in other sports, for perspective on the situation.
Belichick added he's leaning on a pair of former Patriots players on his coaching staff -- wide receivers coach Troy Brown and inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo -- to help his players navigate an emotional situation.
"Two players in particular that carry a lot of weight with me are two staff members: Troy and Jerod," Belichick said. "They've played the game at this level. I haven't. They've lived the life a professional football player at a very, very, very high level, from a training, maturity, performance, longevity (perspective) -- all of the above.
"Their input and guidance has been especially valuable. ... In terms of our staff, our team, they have a great perspective. It's been very valuable to me."
Belichick appears to be using all of the resources at his disposal to help his players and staff cope in uncertain times. The Patriots are still scheduled to play the Bills on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, but the possibility of the game being postponed or moved back hasn't been ruled out.
If there's anyone equipped to deal with adversity in the NFL, though, it's the head coach with nearly half a century of experience.