Former NFL lineman Leon Searcy: ‘You don’t sign up to die on the football field and have to be resuscitated’

Searcy was one of the millions watching live on TV as Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest, was given CPR on field

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The outpouring of love and support for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is growing after he suffered a cardiac arrest after a hit during the Monday Night Football game.

Emergency crews worked on the 24-year-old using CPR and an AED for nearly 10 minutes before rushing him to a hospital, where he remained in critical condition at last check.

Seeing this on live TV was traumatic for many people, including other players.

Former NFL star Leon Searcy was one of the millions watching live on TV as doctors and paramedics performed CPR on the field.

Searcy has a unique perspective as a longtime NFL lineman for teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“I was traumatized,” Searcy said. “It was my first time as a player or as a fan watching, and I was frightened.”

The pain was palpable during Monday evening’s game. Tens of thousands of fans were in near silence as an ambulance drove away with Hamlin inside.

“I was listening to a lot of the pundits on TV who say, as a football player, this is what you sign up for. No, you don’t. You don’t sign up to die on the football field and have to be resuscitated,” Searcy said. “I never saw that on my contract when I was playing.”

Searcy and other sports hosts at 1010XL went over the traumatic event on the radio the next day. The radio hosts commented on fan reactions — the majority acted with compassion, while some fans wanted the high-stakes game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals to go on.

“I just have a problem with fans normalizing this kind of stuff,” Searcy said on the radio.

Initially in Monday night’s broadcast, it was reported that the NFL was giving players 5 minutes to warm up to resume the game after Hamlin was taken away. Now, an NFL executive vice president said that’s not what happened — the league asked a referee to speak with both coaches to make sure they had proper time in the locker rooms to discuss what they felt was best.

On Tuesday afternoon, the NFL announced that the Bills-Bengals game will not resume this week and that Week 18 will go on as scheduled.

News4JAX asked Searcy how he feels the NFL handled this.

“As well as they could. It was unexpected for them. I’m not going to chastise them,” Searcy said. “I’ll say there’s one thing about the NFL, they’re going to have the best medical staff they can for this man.”

Searcy is still shocked by what we saw, hoping the young player makes a full recovery.

“These are literally car crashes that these players are having to endure for 60 minutes of football for your entertainment,” Searcy said. “And people normalize injuries when it happens to players — ACL, MCL.”

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.