BEREA — If you were watching Donovan Mitchell set a Cavaliers record with 71 points and simultaneously inundated on social media with the sobering news of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsing on the field during “Monday Night Football,” Browns cornerback Greg Newsome II can relate.
“I definitely had a similar experience,” Newsome said Friday after the Browns (7-9) practiced in preparation for Sunday’s season finale on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8).
Sports is not the toy department of life some would have us believe.
Sports is life — period.
Yes, games are played, but they’re played by people.
Sports can bring joy and triumph, yet it can also yield pain and tragedy.
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The opposite ends of the spectrum came to the forefront for Newsome and other Cleveland sports fans earlier this week.
Newsome had a conversation along these lines with friend and Cavs All-Star guard Darius Garland.
“Everybody was just real excited [about Mitchell’s franchise scoring record],” Newsome said, “and when you look at your phone, you kind of forget that he just scored 71. That’s kind of an afterthought.”
Newsome’s focus shifted toward Hamlin. The University of Pittsburgh product and second-year Bills defender suffered cardiac arrest after making a routine tackle on Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins in the first quarter at Paycor Stadium. Hamlin was treated with CPR and an AED to restore his heartbeat on the field.
He awoke Thursday at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. The Bills announced Friday he had a breathing tube removed overnight and later FaceTimed into their team meeting to speak with players and coaches.
“I love you boys,” Hamlin said, according to Bills coach Sean McDermott.
Four Browns players who spoke to the Beacon Journal — Newsome, left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., defensive end Myles Garrett and tight end David Njoku — expressed gratitude about the latest developments.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski’s reaction: “That’s the power of prayer.”
Newsome said, “All the prayers that we had for him, obviously they were answered, so it’s a sigh of relief for sure.”
The Browns prayed for Hamlin as a team after Wednesday’s practice, Wills said. Stefanski has been relaying updates to his players throughout the week, and Wills said his mother has been texting him all the latest, too.
“Anytime you see something happen like that, it’s scary because it could be any one of us at any given time,” Wills said. “But that’s amazing [that Hamlin spoke to the Bills]. I’m sure his family is ecstatic. We’re ecstatic for him. That’s amazing. That’s great news.”
“I think God is great,” Njoku added. “Obviously, this could have gone way south and the fact that he’s talking to his team … so they see a smile on his face, I’m sure it means the world to them. It’s awesome.”
Many Browns players have been scanning social media this week for updates on Hamlin.
“It’s a blessing that he’s still walking among us, honestly,” said Garrett, who had a near-death experience of his own in September, when his Porsche 911 Turbo S overturned several times in Sharon Township during a one-vehicle accident. “We know the risk that we take as football players. I think it’s kind of minimalized by those watching, and sometimes we’re just looked at as statistics and people who pick up points for fantasy [football].
“But guys really put their lives at risk at times in the positions they’re in, having a chance to get hurt or alter their lives or careers for years down the road. Unfortunately, there was an instance where the same can be said for [Hamlin], but he’s making a hell of a recovery for something that really made the world stand still. That grim reminder galvanized the whole NFL and really pretty much most people in America who watch football to dig deeper into themselves and find something in themselves to give back to him.”
Cleveland Browns react to Damar Hamlin:Players battle emotions in wake of ‘life-or-death situation’
Since Hamlin’s life-threatening medical issue occurred, the GoFundMe.com page he originally established with a goal of raising $2,500 for a community toy drive had generated more than $8 million in donations as of 6 p.m. Friday.
“I hope somehow it gets up to $10 million,” Njoku said. “I feel like this is a fraternity, the whole NFL. It’s like a brotherhood. The fans did an amazing job. They obviously contributed crazy amounts to someone they don’t even know.”
The NFL Players Association named Hamlin its final NFLPA Community MVP of the season Friday and pledged a $10,000 donation to his Chasing M’s Foundation, which has a mission of creating a lasting, positive impact on the Pittsburgh area where he grew up.
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