For the first time since Monday night, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins addressed the media about his mental state following the tackle with Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin.
After Higgins caught a pass from Joe Burrow, it was Hamlin who tackled him to the ground. It was a normal football play. As Hamlin stood up from the tackle, he then immediately collapsed on the field.
He suffered a cardiac arrest and nearly 10 minutes of CPR was administered on him before he was taken by ambulance to University of Cincinnati Medical Center where he remains.
Higgins was visibly distraught following the game. In no way shape or form was what took place Higgins’ fault, but you could tell being a part of the play shook him to his core. He turned away immediately after he saw what happened.
“It was hard,” Higgins said on Thursday. “Obviously, I wasn’t in a good place to play for the rest of that game so I’m kind of glad we chose not to play.”
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The Bengals and Bills made a joint decision to postpone the game and let the NFL know of their decision.
Higgins left the locker room where he was greeted by his mom, Lady Stewart.
From the moment everything took place at Paycor Stadium, Higgins has been in communication with Hamlin’s mom, Nina. The support he has received has helped him get through this difficult time.
“Obviously, it’s been hard just because you know I had something to do with the play, what not,” Higgins said. “Everyone has been making me feel whole again. I talked to his mom and everything is OK, he’s doing good so I’m in a good place right now.”
Damar Hamlin's family has kept in contact with Tee Higgins
Higgins said Nina Hamlin has made sure to keep him updated on Damar’s status and has offered her prayers for him knowing how traumatizing the incident was. Thousands of people have offered their prays and well wishes for Higgins on social media.
When the entire Bengals team heard the positive news coming out of the hospital regarding Hamlin on Thursday, the locker room received a boost of energy. Several players said knowing Hamlin was trending in the right direction allowed them to do their job at a high level.
“I got news this morning,” Higgins said. “Man, it was another big relief off of my chest, just knowing that he’s responsive and writing on paper is good.”
It was the sigh of relief the team needed as they move forward and look to face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Higgins reiterated he’s a professional and, at the end of the day, his job is to play football.
But there’s no question Hamlin will be on the minds of everyone when the game kicks off at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Football has been a release for Tee Higgins
At the young age of 23, Higgins has been through a lot of hardship. His mom, Lady, had a drug addiction for the early part of his life. She was shot in the head twice and survived but relapsed when she was released. She has been sober for 15 years now.
His father, Eric, spent the majority of his life in federal prison. The first time Eric saw his son play football in person was Higgins’ first game as a Bengal in 2020. At the end of August, days before the Bengals’ first game of the regular season, Eric died.
The amount of tragedy Higgins has experienced in his life is more than most. But he never allows his work to suffer no matter what he’s dealing with. He’s as resilient as they come.
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When asked how he’s able to compartmentalize his feelings and always find strength, he said he learned how to be this way from one person.
“My mom,” Higgins said. “She’s been there and seen the struggles and done the struggles. I’ve seen how she bounced back from something. She was addicted to drugs, so I’ve seen how she bounced back from something that’s hard to bounce back from. It makes it easier on me. Just going back and seeing what she’s been through and all the things I’ve been through, it’s nothing compared to that.”
Football is a release for Higgins. It’s therapeutic and a place he’s able to shut everything out. It’s why he can’t wait to get back on the field on Sunday and perform at a high level.
Higgins has proved many times he can rise above any challenge. He was in good spirits in the locker room on Thursday. After he was done speaking to the media, he shared a game of Ping-Pong with wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
For those worried if Higgins is going to be OK – he will. He has the right mindset and support around him to get through another hard time. And knowing what football provides for him, it wouldn’t be a shock if this takes him to another level for the rest of the season.
It’s all he knows.
“It’s definitely a release for me, always has been,” Higgins said. “Sports has always been a release for me as a kid. So, in a moment like this, what happened last week, obviously football is going to be that release for me.”