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NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award Sparks Controversy

When Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field just minutes into a critical matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals last January, the sports world held its breath. Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the turf of Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium, with players of both teams crowding around him, kneeling, praying, and crying. Focus immediately shifted from seemingly trivial matters such as playoff seeding to a life-or-death situation. Thankfully, medical staff from both teams were able to save Hamlin using CPR, avoiding the worst-case scenario. Yet it still seemed his football career was over.

Miraculously, on Oct. 1, Hamlin returned to the field. The Bills blew out the Dolphins in this game, and while he didn’t record any stats in the matchup, the fact that Hamlin was simply able to suit up with his teammates inspired just about everyone.

It is this story that has propelled Damar Hamlin to be the favorite for NFL Comeback Player of the Year (CPOY). Yet his stat line for the season is abysmal, recording nothing but two tackles. This raises the question of whether or not Hamlin is actually deserving of the award. Yes, what he accomplished is nothing short of a miracle, but shouldn’t the award be given to a player who has shone after an injury or a hiatus? 

The obvious runner-up to Hamlin is Cleveland Browns’ quarterback (QB) thirty-eight-year-old Joe Flacco, who has shot back into NFL stardom after multiple years of mediocrity. After spending the first weeks of the season as a free agent, the Browns signed Flacco and started him at QB after their starter, Deshaun Watson, suffered an injury. Flacco has led his team to a 4-1 record and a playoff berth.

“The award should not be based on who had the worst injury,” senior Rafi Katz said. “Hamlin barely played, while Flacco excelled in a difficult situation. Going from the practice squad to putting up pro-bowl numbers fits the criteria for the award far better.”

Alternatively, senior Ezra Beinart proposed that the award should be renamed the Damar Hamlin Comeback Player of the Year Award and be given to Flacco.

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