‘It makes me feel better inside:’ Tee Higgins reacts to positive news of Hamlin’s recovery

Higgins said he spoke with Hamlin’s mother, who offered words of encouragement.
Bengals react to emotional week
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 4:16 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Tee Higgins says he’s in a “good place” knowing Damar Hamlin woke up Wednesday night.

“Man, it feels good knowing that he’s ok and doing better,” Higgins said Thursday afternoon. “It makes me feel better inside.”

Higgins spoke with Hamlin’s mother earlier this morning.

“She’s telling me she’s thinking of me, praying for me, things like that,” he said. “She’s telling me that he’s ok and just all the good positive stuff.”

It was the Bengals wide receiver whom Hamlin tackled that precipitated the medical emergency at Paycor Stadium Monday night.

Hamlin and Higgins collided and went to the ground. Hamlin then got to his feet before suddenly collapsing without appearing to brace his fall. Doctors later said he suffered cardiac arrest. EMS personnel defibrillated him and performed CPR on the field, restoring his heartbeat, before rushing him to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in an ambulance.

[AP sources: NFL will not resume Bills-Bengals game]

Higgins on Thursday recalled the immediate aftermath of the hit.

“I just turned my head and tried not to think about it, because I knew it was something crazy and tragic,” he said. “It was hard. Obviously I wasn’t in a good place to play for the rest of the game, so I’m glad we chose not to play.”

Higgins’ mother was close by to comfort him after the game was postponed.

“It was very important,” he said of her presence. “You always want a loved one in a moment like that.”

Outside the locker rooms, the reality of what had actually happened took hold like a waking nightmare. Fans in the stadium and around the country disclosed signs of trauma. Interminable hours passed before anyone knew whether Hamlin was alive. The world turned to prayer.

Concerns mounted in Cincinnati over the following days for Higgins and his emotional state. He confided Thursday he was “not in a good place” following the hit.

The unfathomable criticism of ESPN’s Bart Scott likely didn’t help. Hamlin’s family pushed back against it Wednesday, disclosing frustration and anger at Scott and others.

“This isn’t supporting Damar,” Hamlin’s marketing rep and longtime friend Jordon Rooney said late Tuesday. “If you think you’re supporting Damar by bashing Tee, you’re not supporting Damar.”

Bills quarterback Josh Allen came to Higgins’ defense as well. On Thursday he noted he’d seen some social media posts critical of Higgins but acknowledged he had not reached out to the Bengals wide receiver directly.

“People should not be attacking [him] whatsoever. And I’m glad that Damar’s family came out and said that. Hopefully he found some relief today, because again, that’s a football play. I hope that he doesn’t hold that upon himself. Because again, there’s nothing else that he could’ve done in that situation.”

A Buffalo Bills fan group has raised thousands for Higgins’ foundation since Wednesday night in a show of support.

Quarterback Joe Burrow said Wednesday Higgins looked fine on the surface but noted it’s always hard to know what people are feeling underneath.

Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said much the same Thursday.

“He seems like he’s doing ok to me,” Callahan said. “He’s been pretty much himself this week, from everything that he’s shown outwardly. That’s not always the best judge of how somebody is doing, but it seems that he’s doing ok, considering the circumstances.”

Ok on the outside, though Higgins himself acknowledged dealing with the aftermath of Hamlin’s injury has been difficult.

News of Hamlin’s recovery no doubt eased whatever negative emotions the Bengals wide receiver may have been harboring.

Now Higgins’ focus is on the Baltimore Ravens, whom the Bengals play at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

It appeared an improbable contest just days ago, and Burrow acknowledged Wednesday that a locker-room poll might show split opinions on playing it. But Higgins is ready to move forward.

“Obviously it’s been hard, but I’m a professional football player at the end of the day, so I had to shift my focus on the Ravens and be prepared to win that game,” he said.

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