While QB Kenny Pickett accepted his Joe Greene Award as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ best rookie of the season, the ensuing press conference took a more somber tone. Pickett, a teammate and close friend of Damar Hamlin, still in critical condition in a Cincinnati hospital, spoke a few words about Hamlin and their relationship.
“Damar is an unbelievable person,” Pickett told reporters via Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley. “Does so much for the community. Guy from Pittsburgh, stayed home. Could’ve gone anywhere he wanted to. Stayed home and we had a great run together. He had an unbelievable career at Pitt. Captains together in 2020. All around great person, great family.”
Hamlin arrived in 2016, one year before Pickett, but the two were teammates together for years. As Pickett noted, they were captains in 2020, a difficult year through the COVID pandemic where their bond was likely even stronger than normal seasons. Hamlin was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the sixth round of the 2021 draft. A reserve as a rookie, he carved out a key role on the defense this season.
Hamlin was seriously injured Monday night, suffering a chest injury after tackling Cincinnati Bengals’ WR Tee Higgins in the first quarter. Hamlin collapsed on the field and his heart stopped. Revived by medical personnel on the field who literally saved his life, he was rushed to a nearby hospital where he remains.
A short time ago, the Bills’ offered an official update, announcing Hamlin remains in an ICU but has shown signs of improving.
Pickett, like the rest of those who know him, have been doing their best to get updates on Hamlin’s condition.
“Thoughts and prayers with him. Just trying to keep in touch with his family through Coach Narduzzi…seems like everything is going in the right direction. Just hoping for the best.”
Pickett also told reporters he and the team talked about Hamlin in their meetings ahead of today’s practice, balancing between having empathy for Hamlin along with the need to focus on a must-win game against the Browns.
“It was talked about this morning in the meeting,” he said via team transcript. “It’s extremely tough. When you sign up for this, you don’t expect that to be a possibility. So obviously, that kind of stuns you, especially when it hits close to home like that with Damar. But you’ve got to focus up when the time comes to be at work, and then as soon as we’re done, obviously checking in and getting as many updates as we can. So, it’s definitely a balancing act.
Pickett and Hamlin saw each other earlier in the year when the Steelers and Bills played against each other. Hamlin hit Pickett as he was sliding but Pickett brushed the play off, noting how good of a relationship the two have and any contact wasn’t malicious.
Before the two teams played, cameras captured Pickett and Hamlin saying hello.
“He’s like family to me,” Pickett told reporters today.
Football is a special sport that deepens friendship. Now that Hamlin is fighting for his life, the football world has rallied around him to lend their support, including from Kenny Pickett.