The NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills will not resume after being suspended after Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field.
The Bills safety suffered a cardiac arrest during Monday’s game at Ohio.
Although the 24-year-old remains hospitalized, doctors said on Thursday that he showed “remarkable improvement”.
The outcome of the game would have affected play-off standings, so the NFL is considering hosting the AFC Championship Game at a neutral venue.
There is only one round of regular season fixtures left to play this weekend, with the play-offs due to start on January 14.
Not playing the Cincinnati-Buffalo game until its conclusion has no effect on clubs qualifying for the postseason, with both teams already guaranteed to be among the top seeds in the AFC conference.
However, an NFL statement says this creates “potential competitive inequities” through the play-offs, as both teams will have played one game less than their rivals and a team’s record determines who has home-court advantage. .
The team with the best record in a Conference also receives a bye in the first round of the play-offs. In the AFC, the top seed is between the Bills, Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the competition committee have recommended playing the AFC Championship Game at a neutral stadium if the participating teams have played an unequal number of games.
The winner of that game, scheduled for Jan. 29, will represent the AFC in Super Bowl 57 on Feb. 12.
“Our principles have been to limit disruption in the league and minimize competitive inequities,” Goodell said. “I recognize that there is no perfect solution.”
NFL clubs will consider the recommendation at a special league meeting on Friday, which Goodell said “addresses the most significant potential fairness issues created by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game in these extraordinary circumstances”.
“I’m pretty happy that we chose not to play”
Hamlin has been in an intensive care unit since collapsing in Monday’s game, prompting an outpouring of support from fans.
He is still on a ventilator at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center but contacted doctors and on Thursday they said he “appears to be neurologically intact.”
Hamlin collapsed after colliding with Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who said the days since the incident had been “difficult”.
“Everyone made me feel whole again,” he added. “I spoke to his mum. He’s fine, so I’m in a good place at the moment.
“[She was] telling me that she is thinking of me, praying for me, that he is fine.”
Seeing Hamlin crumble after the tackle, Higgins added: “I knew it was something crazy, something tragic. Man, it was tough. Obviously I was in the wrong place. to play for the rest of this game, so I’m kinda glad we chose not to play.”
Goodell told all clubs on Thursday that the game had been called off, after speaking with the Bills, Bengals and the NFL Players Association.
“It has been a very difficult week,” he added.
“We continue to be focused on Damar Hamlin’s recovery and are encouraged by the improvements in his condition as well as the tremendous outpouring of support and care for Damar and his family across the country.”