GREEN BAY, Wisc. – A fairly entertaining preseason game between the Patriots and the Green Bay Packers suddenly turned into Damar Hamlin flashbacks.
And older Patriot fans had Darryl Stingley flashbacks.
Back in December, Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field in Cincinnati, was rushed to a nearby hospital, and caused the game between the Bengals and the Buffalo Bills to be suspended. The nation looked on in horror as Hamlin survived in the end but nearly died that night if not for the quick and expert work of the EMTs that attended to him.
Now, on Saturday night at Lambeau Field, Isaiah Bolden, a rookie defensive back who was also being vetted for kick return duty, hopefully got the same quick care and attention that Hamlin got eight months ago.
With 10:29 left in the fourth quarter, Sean Clifford had the Packers at the Patriot 25 yard line. Clifford, the backup quarterback to Jordan Love, hit Malik Heath on a left slant pattern. Heath, Patriot linebacker Calvin Munson and Bolden collided with a loud thud and Bolden went down in a heap. It appeared that Bolden took a shot to the head from the knee of Munson. Immediately, players on the field summoned for help, and trainers from both teams raced out to tend to Bolden.
All Patriot team members were on the field as Bolden lay motionless for about 15-20 minutes. The Packers looked on from their sideline with looks of grave concern on their faces. A stretcher came out on a motorized cart, and Bolden was lifted on the cart and driven off the field amidst a rousing ovation from the mostly partisan Packer crowd.
While Bolden was being treated, head coaches Bill Belichick and Matt LaFleur, along with longtime Patriot special teams captain Matthew Slater, conferred on the field. After Bolden was carted off the field, referee John Hussey announced to the crowd that, after consultation with players and coaches, the game was suspended and officially over, with the Patriots leading 21-17.
Late word came that Bolden was taken to a local hospital, where it was reported that Bolden did have movement in all of his extremities. In his postgame press conference, Belichick deferred to the report that came from the hospital, and asked for prayers for both Bolden and for players whose families were affected by the wildfires in Maui, Hawaii (Jahlani Tavai, for example, is from Hawaii and has a website asking for donations to the relief effort in Maui).
The decision to end the game was another reminder of the Hamlin incident, and nobody in the crowd at Lambeau Field booed or showed any objection otherwise. The players all shook hands after a week of practicing together, and left the field promptly. The fans all filed out orderly. All attention and focus postgame was on Bolden, as it should have been. Any post game analysis can wait.
For those fans who do remember the awful events of August 12, 1978, one has to wonder why that game didn’t end early like this game and the Hamlin game did. Maybe it was a different mindset back then, and Jack Tatum’s continued lack of compassion for what happened up until his death speaks volumes as to why that game continued, and the only person on the Raiders who seemed to be concerned over Stingley was Raider head coach John Madden.
In that game, the infamous play happened in the second quarter. Stingley was lined up on the right side of the formation and ran a slant in pattern. Steve Grogan led him a little too far and caused Stingley to extend his body. While in mid-air, Tatum blasted him in the head with his shoulder pad and snapped his neck back, breaking his fourth and fifth vertebrae. Stingley collapsed to the ground, and suddenly became a quadriplegic. Stingley was attended to by the training staff, and a stretcher was brought out and Stingley was carted off the field with neither an ambulance or a motorized cart.
Madden went to visit Stingley postgame, and was the only Raider team member to show any support. The game continued after Stingley left, and there was no talk at all about game suspension or anything like that. A Hall of Fame game two years later between Green Bay and San Diego was stopped early thanks to a thunderstorm with lightning, but other than that, nothing stopped NFL games back then.
It is nice to see this outpouring of support for gravely injured players or players in a life and death situation. Hamlin’s near-fatal situation happened during a late season game with lots of playoff ramifications involved. This injury to Bolden happened in a meaningless preseason game like Stingley. Ending the game harmed no one, and allowed the Patriot players to bunker down and pray and think about their fallen comrade. Looking back some 45 years ago, it would have been nice if the Stingley game had also ended at that point, but the NFL had a far different mindset back then.
This also affects players like Munson. This was a fluke situation where Munson’s knee caught Bolden in the helmet, and it was completely accidental. But Munson is probably spooked by this, and he most certainly is grateful that the game did not continue. Unlike Tatum, who wrote a book about the Stingley hit and tried to capitalize on that tragic event, Munson was seen on the sideline looking dazed and in shock. One has to wonder about Munson’s mental state moving forward; Munson is trying to crack a linebacker squad loaded with outstanding players, and something like this can set Munson back a great deal.
The Patriots will have to regroup as they prepare to leave Green Bay and head for Nashville, Tennessee and a week with Mike Vrabel’s Titans. No Patriot player said an awful lot on the podium after the game other than to offer prayers for Bolden and wishing him the very best. There was no talk about the game itself, and the players’ tone was mostly reserved and reverent.
Meanwhile, Bolden can look to Harmon for inspiration. Harmon is back and practicing with the Bills, and has taken part in preseason action. Bolden can move his arms and legs, which of course is the main concern for anyone who sustains a neck injury.
Right now, for everyone concerned with the Patriots, Isaiah Bolden is all that concerns the team. As previously stated, post game analysis can wait.
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Posted Under: Patriots News