NFL cancels Bills-Bengals game, modifies playoffs
The NFL has canceled the game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals days after Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field and needed to be resuscitated.
The league said in a statement on Thursday that Commissioner Roger Goodell told all teams about the decision after speaking with the Bills, the Bengals and the leadership of the NFL Players Association, the union representing players in the NFL.
“This has been a very difficult week,” Goodell said. “We continue to focus on the recovery of Damar Hamlin and are encouraged by the improvements in his condition as well as the tremendous outpouring of support and care for Damar and his family from across the country.”
The NFL said it made the decision to cancel the game based on a few key factors — that no team would clinch a playoff spot or be eliminated as a result of the game, that resuming it would require postponing the playoffs entirely and that canceling it before Week 18 lets all teams know their playoff possibilities in advance of the week.
This coming weekend will be the final week of the NFL regular season.
The league postponed the game on Monday after Hamlin collapsed during the first quarter. He tackled a Bengals player during a play and got up after but fell to the ground seconds later.
Medical officials said on Thursday that Hamlin is awake and has made “substantial improvement.” They said his neurological condition appears to be intact.
The NFL said the league’s teams will consider a resolution that Goodell recommends at a special meeting to address potential “competitive inequities” in certain playoff situations.
The resolution would have the AFC Championship game be played at a neutral site, instead of giving one team home-field advantage, if the teams have played an unequal number of games and both could have won the conference’s top seed if the game was played.
It also plans for what should happen if the Baltimore Ravens defeat Cincinnati in the final week of the regular season. If that happens and both teams are scheduled to meet in the first round of the playoffs, the location of that game would be determined by a coin toss.
The NFL said Baltimore winning would mean that it would have won both of its regular season games against Cincinnati but not been able to host the playoff game because Cincinnati has a higher winning percentage through 16 games than Baltimore does through 17 games.
“I recognize that there is no perfect solution,” Goodell said. “The proposal we are asking the ownership to consider, however, addresses the most significant potential equitable issues created by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game under these extraordinary circumstances.”
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