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Giants practice with heavy hearts as Damar Hamlin situation weighs across NFL

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The New York Giants gather during practice at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J.
amNewYork/Kyle Sweeting

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Brian Daboll walked up to his regular Wednesday press conference wearing a Giants hat with the No. 3 stitched onto it to pay tribute to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. The Giants coach was clearly feeling the impact of the events that occurred in Cincinnati, much like the rest of the NFL has for the past two days. 

Teams across the NFL have been trying to deal with the emotional scene that played out on Monday night when Hamlin went into cardiac arrest at 8:55 p.m. after making what looked like a routine play. 

“On behalf of our organization, myself, Joe (Schoen), the players, some of the coaches, some of the staff members. A lot of us have been around Demar and we offer our prayers to him, his family to the people in (the Bills) organization,” Daboll said to start his press conference. “They’ve been through a lot and this is tragic to see. I feel for Damar most importantly, the family, and all the players and coaches that are around him every day. He’s a tremendous young man and just pray for his recovery. That was tough.” 

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The Giants have particularly felt the pain of what happened to Hamlin with so many having connections to the Bills organization. Daboll had been the offensive coordinator since 2018 in Buffalo and Schoen had served as assistant GM since 2017 there. 

Jon Feliciano, Matt Breida, Jack Anderson and Nick McCloud played for the Bills last season during Hamlin’s rookie year. Isaiah Hodgins had been in Buffalo earlier this season before he was cut.

“He’s a great dude. Like, if you guys would have asked me about this last week, I would have all the same stuff to say about him,” Hodgins said about Hamlin. “He’s a hard worker, brought energy every day. It’s rare that you see him moping around or anything. high energy guy and just fun to play with man. Fun to just do stuff with off the field, on the field, everything’s. A good dude.”

Daboll said that he had been watching the Monday night game between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals when the incident occurred. He called the moment “terrible.” 

 Before the Giants even took the field for their first practice on Wednesday, Daboll addressed the team, along with the team’s “medical people,” team psychologist, and the team chaplain spoke and led the team in prayer. 

The Giants’ head coach wouldn’t go into what was said inside the locker room during that meeting, but Daboll said that he had felt it was important for those staff members to address the team. “I just thought that was the right thing to do for our team,” Daboll added. 

“I mean, obviously, a lot of emotions floating around the locker room,” Tyrod Taylor said. “Even if you didn’t know, this brotherhood that we share across the league. Obviously, it’s always on our mind to get back out there and to compete, but at the same time is one of our brothers that’s going through something tough. We can only just keep lifted up and keep his famly lifted up in prayer, and take it one day at a time.” 

Hamlin remained in the intensive care unit on Wednesday and in critical condition. There were signs for some optimism as the Bills said in a statement that there had been “signs of improvement noted yesterday and overnight.”

“It’s been difficult the last couple of days,” Daboll said. “This is a relationship business and when something like that happens to people that mean a lot to you, or even if you don’t know them. … Having been around the young man, know him, know the type of person he is, yeah it’s tough.”

For more New York Giants news, turn to AMNY.com

The NFL is moving forward with the schedule as expected, but it is still unknown if or when the Bengals and Bills game would be resumed. On a broader level, the emotional toll was clear inside the Giants’ locker room as players reacted to the ongoing situation.

And it was clear where their mindset was at. 

Obviously, we’re affected by it,” Julian Love said when askd his thoughts on having to play this weekend. “All of us, this is a brotherhood of a league. schedule-wise, I mean, I think I could care less what happens going forward. What’s on my mind is that he’s okay.”

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