FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill Belichick, who in his 48th overall season is the NFL’s longest-tenured coach, said Thursday that he has reached out to Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott and Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor to express his support on behalf of the New England Patriots.
Belichick also shared that he was watching Monday night’s game, and when Bills safety Damar Hamlin remained down and required CPR, it sparked memories of his time as a New York Jets assistant in 1997. In the final game of that season, against the Lions, Belichick was on the sideline when Detroit linebacker Reggie Brown didn’t get up after a tackle.
“Reggie was unconscious for quite a while. By the time he was given CPR, revived, then put on the board, and put on the ambulance, and driven off the field at the Silverdome, it was quite a lengthy process where the teams looked very much like the game Monday night — of concern, thought, prayer, kneeling and so forth,” Belichick said in his first remarks to reporters since Monday morning.
“It was a very chilling game, one that I’ll obviously never forget.”
Brown had a serious spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed. Belichick has stayed up to date with his progress.
“Reggie has done pretty well with the emergency surgery they did, and with the brace he wears, he’s not wheelchair-bound. I know he’s active in the Houston area and so forth, youth sports and a lot of things like that,” he said.
“Great guy, great player, first-round draft pick, just a very tragic scene; one that, not that I have all the answers — because I certainly don’t — but I was there and experienced that and I think have some sense of what the players and teams and coaches went through Monday night. It’s something you never forget.”
Belichick, whose Patriots are preparing for the season finale against the Bills, added: “Damar Hamlin has been on everyone’s minds and their thoughts since Monday night.”
Belichick, 70, also shared something he relayed to his players.
“Football is a very great and competitive game. Unfortunately, injuries and things like this can and do happen from time to time. Life’s bigger than this game and I think this is one of these humbling moments for all of us that stands out,” he said.
“I’d say, as a coach, it’s different and I’ve expressed this to the players multiple times — the amount of respect that I have for them and what they do, and how they do it, is immense. I’ m proud to coach the players I’ve coached here and everywhere else. As a coach, that’s not something I ever think about — I don’t worry about getting hurt in the game.
“The players, it’s different, they walk out there, put the equipment on, it’s a contact sport. What they and their families deal with as participants is different than what I do as a coach. I respect that and appreciate what they do, and try to do the best I can to make the right decisions and coach them in the best way I possibly can.”