EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Nick McCloud joined the Buffalo Bills as a rookie free agent in 2021, a couple of weeks after the team drafted Damar Hamlin in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. The two young defensive backs quickly became close friends, a union they maintained when McCloud spent two months on the Cincinnati Bengals' practice squad last year and was released by Buffalo just prior to the start of the 2022 season.
McCloud was awarded off waivers to the Giants on Aug. 31, the same day as safety Jason Pinnock, who had been cut by the Jets. Pinnock had been Hamlin's teammate for four years at the University of Pittsburgh, and the two new Giants connected because of their mutual friend.
That bond has been a means of support for them this week, as Hamlin remains in the intensive care unit of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center after collapsing on the field in the first quarter of the Bills-Bengals game Monday night. Hamlin's heart was restarted with CPR and a defibrillator, and he remains in critical condition.
"Me and Pinnock have been in communication with people who are close," McCloud said after practice today. "So, we're just trying to get updates as much as we can. We've been on the phone, I'd probably say, by the hour. Ever since it happened, we've just been sharing information, trying to get information to each other as much as we can. So, definitely trying to lean on each other as best as we can right now."
They are joined by many others on the Giants who know Hamlin and those who have never met him.
Several current Giants worked with Hamlin last season in Buffalo. The group includes coach Brian Daboll, assistant coaches Bobby Johnson (offensive line) and Shea Tierney (quarterbacks), plus director of coaching operations Laura Young. In addition to McCloud and Pinnock, current Giants who are former teammates of Hamlin include wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, center Jon Feliciano, quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Davis Webb, center Jon Feliciano and running back Matt Breida .
"Obviously, the Damar thing hit home, especially for me personally because his rookie year, we were the scout team safeties together on defense," Webb said. "So, he was one side. I was the other side. We were back and forth talking. I love Damar. He's a great human being. I've talked to as many guys as I can in that facility. When we were watching it at home, with my girlfriend and her family, it was all shock. It was hurting fornot only Damar obviously, but all those players and coaches and support staff that were on the field. And I'm thankful for the medical team there – Nate Breske (Bills head athletic trainer) and his crew and the trainers – that had to perform something that they didn't think when they woke up that they would have to do.
"It's scary. It sucks no matter who it is. But it really sucks because he's an unbelievable human being. And I think everybody's seen that charity stuff; it's pretty neat (GoFundMe contributions to Hamlin's foundation exceed $6.6 million). And I know he is a strong individual, and if anyone can make it through, it's Damar."
Hodgins was Hamlin's teammate in 2021 and until Nov. 1, 2022, when he was released by the Bills. He joined the Giants the next day.
"I was real good friends with Damar," Hodgins said. "He came in my second year, so I got to spend almost two years with him. Real stand-up guy, real good dude. I know a lot of people would say that just because of the situation. But if you were to ask me this last week, I would've said the same thing about him. It's just his first year starting this year. He waited his turn just like a lot of people have to. He stayed real patient – late round draft pick, had to grind for a spot. And he earned it.
"He's genuinely a good dude. I'm just praying for the best for him and his family right now, hoping that he pulls through. It is tough given that I've spent a lot of time with him there and the whole team there. And that's a real tight-knight group and family and team and locker room. And everyone's always hanging out with everybody. There's no cliques or groups or anything. So, it's definitely a tough situation. I'm just praying and hoping for the best for him."
McCloud said he has spoken to "everyone" in the Bills' secondary.
"It's tough on everybody," he said. "I know it's tough on the DBs because of how close we were. It's tough on the people that came in my rookie class in '21 last year. It's tough on everybody. So, just trying to check on them. They're trying to check on me, do as best as we can to cope with it.
"(Hamlin) is one of those people that you love talking about because of how he lives his life, how he plays the game and how he comes to work every day. I got JP (Pinnock) right here. I got Isaiah right here. So, just like I said, we would definitely talk about him and those other guys that we played with."
Running back Saquon Barkley said he knows Hamlin "a little bit," but Barkley's good friend and former Penn State teammate, Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders, is close to him.
"Any time you see a guy go down, especially when you have no idea what's really going on, it definitely hurts," Barkley said. "It sucks. Just praying for him and his family and all those guys over there in Buffalo.
"When you actually see something like that, it leaves you speechless. The first text I got was from my mom. My mom was just saying how bad she feels for Damar's family. That's a mother's, that's a parent's worst nightmare. It definitely does put it in perspective. Me having kids seeing that – it's a physical sport, it's a game I love to play, but at any given moment, it makes you just appreciate all the little things. Going out to practice, spend time with your family, spend time with your teammates, your friends and even stuff like this. Any moment, anything can happen."
View photos from practice as the Giants get ready for their regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.
*The Giants held their first practice today in preparation for their final regular-season game, Sunday in Philadelphia. Players who did not participate included Feliciano (back), linebacker Azeez Ojulari (ankle) and defensive linemen Leonard Williams (neck) and Dexter Lawrence (rest day).
Cornerback Adoree' Jackson (knee) was limited.
*Safety Julian Love has been elected the winner of the 22nd annual George Young-Ernie Accorsi Media Good Guy Award by the New York Giants Chapter of the Professional Football Writers of America for his professionalism and availability during the 2022 season.
The award is named for the two former general managers of the Giants and given annually to recognize a Giants player for his consistent and outstanding cooperation with the writers who cover the team on a daily basis.
Love received 11 of a possible 18 first-place votes from members of the chapter. Wide receiver Darius Slayton finished second in the voting and received four first-place votes. Offensive lineman Nick Gates and running back Saquon Barkley finished tied for third with Gates receiving three first-place votes. In all, 10 different players appeared on at least one of the 18 ballots.
Love's name will be added to a plaque that honors all winners and resides in the media work room at the Giants' Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Winners of the George Young-Ernie Accorsi Good Guy Award:
- 2022: S Julian Love
- 2021: DL Leonard Williams
- 2020: S Logan Ryan
- 2019: TE Evan Engram
- 2018: WR Sterling Shepard
- 2017: S Landon Collins
- 2016: WR Victor Cruz
- 2015: CB Prince Amukamara
- 2014: RB Rashad Jennings
- 2013: CB Terrell Thomas
- 2012: S Antrel Rolle
- 2011: WR Victor Cruz
- 2010: DT Barry Cofield
- 2009: DE Mathias Kiwanuka
- 2008: QB Eli Manning
- 2007: DE Justin Tuck
- 2006: WR Plaxico Burress
- 2005: RB Tiki Barber
- 2004: QB Kurt Warner
- 2003: WR Ike Hilliard
- 2002: QB Kerry Collins
- 2001: OL Lomas Brown