Booger McFarland was about 20 minutes away from landing in Tampa on Tuesday morning when he was asked to reflect on one of the worst nights in NFL history. He was understandably exhausted, working on about four-and-a-half hours of sleep. As the plane neared his home city, the ESPN studio analyst said he was thinking about Bills safety Damar Hamlin and particularly Hamlin’s mother, Nina, who was in the Paycor Stadium crowd and had to process everything in front of her as a parent. Her son, as of this writing, is currently is in critical condition in a Cincinnati hospital after he collapsed and went into cardiac arrest on the field in the first quarter of Monday’s game against the Bengals.
“We were sitting in the green room eating dinner when we got word that we were needed back on set,” said McFarland. “As I’m walking toward the set my only thought was, ‘What exactly do they want us to say?’ That’s all Adam Schefter and I were thinking. I’ve hit people and been hit so many times on that field, and to see that play out where we are watching life and death play out on national television is an uncomfortable feeling. When I saw the look on the trainers’ and doctors’ faces, I knew this was different. Then you hear they are doing CPR, which means he’s having difficulty breathing. All I could think about was life or death for this young man. That is something I never thought would happen on an NFL field.”
McFarland was based last night at ESPN’s New York City studios with host Suzy Kolber and Schefter. You could see the anguish on his face from the moment Kolber turned to him to discuss the play. The players know when something is really bad — and McFarland played eight seasons in the NFL at defensive tackle. He has seen and felt the violence of the sport. He eloquently explained that the players understand the inherent violence of the game and the risks that come with it. But what happened in Cincinnati was different.
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