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January 04, 2023

Amid Damar Hamlin situation, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni is 'just trying to be there for the guys'

The Eagles coach is trying to guide his team through an unprecedented and devastating week in the NFL

The Eagles have a crucial regular-season finale against the Giants coming up in just a few days, but right now, head coach Nick Sirianni understands if his players' minds are elsewhere. 

The football and sports worlds at large are still reeling from Damar Hamlin's collapse Monday night in Cincinnati. The Buffalo Bills safety went into cardiac arrest mid-game after making a routine tackle and required CPR on the field to have his heartbeat restored. 

With Bills and Bengals players and staff alike in visible distress, Hamlin was loaded into an ambulance and driven to the nearby University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he remains in critical condition but has shown signs of improvement, per the Bills

Still, there's a long way to go and a lot for everyone to process. 

"Anytime there's a situation outside of our building that requires discussion, we definitely do that," Sirianni said during his media availability Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex. "That's kind of our standard operating procedure here and we did the same thing today...Really just wanted everyone to know that they have a lot of people who care for them in this building and that – the relationships, this is one of the reasons why you build the relationships so the people who are hurting from this can come talk to the people they need to. 

"We just all feel for Damar and his family and are just praying for a speedy recovery."

The NFL postponed the Bills-Bengals game in the first quarter with no decision made on a possible resumption beyond that it won't happen this week. No changes, for now, have been made to the league's Week 18 slate, which leaves the Bills and the 31 other teams just days to try and navigate through a rare and devastating situation. 

None of it's easy and Sirianni knows there's no right way to move forward.

"You just do," he said. "You go from one to the next and you try to make the transition there. You talk about the tough things that are happening and you have that conversation and then you transition. It's not easy. It's not like going from meetings to a walkthrough, that's not what we're talking about here. 

"You just try to move on. It's a tough balance, but you try to move on to the next thing and be where you are at that time but also understanding that the guys' minds could be other places at that time as well."

The Eagles opted to postpone their coordinators' media availability on Tuesday out of respect for Hamlin's situation. 

In a league-wide show of support, the NFL, all 32 of its teams, and the NFL Players Association changed their profile pictures on social media to Hamlin's No. 3 with the message "Pray for Damar" above it

Bills and Bengals fans gathered and prayed outside of the UC Medical Center campus after Hamlin was transported there, and Hamlin's foundation, Chasing M's, received millions in donations for its toy drive benefitting children in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pa. As of Wednesday afternoon, the drive has raised more than $6.5 million

Numerous players also took to social media to express their prayers, support, and well wishes. The names included Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox, who was college teammates with Hamlin at Pitt, running back Miles Sanders, a friend and native of nearby Pittsburgh, and wide receiver A.J. Brown, who crossed paths with Hamlin during high school

It's a somber week in football, which for the Eagles, compounded with defensive end Josh Sweat's own distressing neck injury on Sunday that saw him get stretchered and carted off the field, then taken to a nearby hospital (though he was released that night).

There's no right way forward. At the end of the day, Sirianni just wants to make sure he's there for his players. 

"I'm just trying to be there for them to talk through things," he said. "I had a bunch of conversations with the guys, but of course, there's a human side to this too...They see those things and of course, it's gonna affect us in different ways, and not everybody's gonna be affected the same way. Josh Sweat's situation was scary. I think having to watch him lay there and not getting up right away, that's a scary thing for the guys to have to deal with. 

"That's tough. It's the tough part of this game. Injuries happen in this game. Again, you just try to be there for the guys."

Sweat's back in the building

After Sweat was released from the hospital Sunday night, he tweeted out a 'thank you' for the prayers and support, and vowed to be back this season

On Wednesday, Sirianni confirmed that Sweat is back at the NovaCare Complex but had no further update. They're taking things "day by day."

"It was good to see him back in here today," Sirianni said. "The smile on his face and he's probably gonna be bugging me to play. We'll see, but we'll take that day by day."

On a defensive front loaded with talent, the 25-year old edge rusher was probably one of the best-kept secrets in the NFL. While Haason Reddick, Javon Hargrave, Brandon Graham, and Fletcher Cox took up most of the opposing offensive lines' attention, Sweat was quietly causing just as many problems, racking up 11 sacks, 48 tackles and his first interception (a pick-six) to set new career highs across the board. 

That he's doing well following a scary sight on Sunday is the most important thing above all else. Still, going without him, for however long that might be, is absolutely a blow to the Eagles' pass rush. 

The idea that Sweat might bug Sirianni about coming back to play so soon isn't exactly unfounded either. 

Last January, a few days before the Eagles' playoff game at Tampa Bay, Sweat abruptly suffered from internal bleeding and had an emergency procedure done to cauterize the broken artery in what the team called a "life-threatening situation."

Somehow he made a quick enough recovery to nearly play against the Buccaneers, though doctors ultimately couldn't clear him for contact. He said later that had the Eagles advanced to the next round, he probably would've been back for that one. 

"It was bad because the decision came right up to the point of the game, but just fell a little bit short," Sweat said of the incident back in May. "Didn't have my levels back up the way they needed to be. So it held me out for that one."

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