With three-and-a-half minutes left in the third quarter of the Bills loss to the New England Patriots, 52 members of the home team's roster gathered in prayer. The missing Bill was safety Aaron Williams, who was being loaded into an ambulance after a neck injury.
Williams' head snapped backward after he laid out trying to make a tackle against Patriots wide receiver Julian Edleman, who scored a touchdown on the play. After a lengthy stay on the ground for one of the Bills' most vocal leaders, the ambulance entered from the other side of the stadium, and Williams was readied for a trip to the hospital. Head coach Rex Ryan gave an update on the injury after the game.
"Aaron injured his neck," he said. "He was taken to the hospital for cervical precaution."
At 6:30 p.m., the Bills medical staff added that after a series of tests, Williams had been released from the hospital.
While the update was certainly welcome news, Williams' teammates recognized that it is exceptionally hard to lose a player like him to injury in a game of this magnitude. It can understandably shift a team's focus and make it difficult to get back to the task at hand.
"[That's] scary for the whole stadium," middle linebacker Preston Brown said. "We never want to see a guy get carted off. So our prayers are with Aaron, and we hope he comes back right."
"It's just tough to see one of your teammates go down like that," said DE Jerry Hughes. "It's very unfortunate. We're praying for him to have a speedy recovery because we need someone like that back there in our secondary."
But the focus, of course, is on a full recovery for their defensive leader.
"We just hope for a speedy recovery so that he can get back on the field with us as soon as possible," cornerback Nickell Robey said.
Robey added that his team was able to turn a frightening situation into a rallying point for the remainder of the game.
"Yes, we definitely felt that [we could rally around Aaron]," he said. "After that happened, we said 'Let's just play some football, man.' We can't let outside factors get to us. We have to go out there, know our assignment, and just go."
In Williams' absence, second-stringers Bacarri Rambo and Duke Williams will have to produce in the defensive backfield. Hughes is confident that both guys can make plays should their numbers be called next week.
"We know Bacarri Rambo and Duke Williams will step up," he said. "They have to have a great week of practice, and we'll get ready for Miami."
But it will not solely be up to Rambo or Duke Williams to replace Aaron Williams should the starting safety miss significant time. Anything those two players can offer will be ancillary to a larger team effort, according to Brown.
"We all have to pick it up," the middle linebacker said. "Aaron is a great leader for our defense, and we have to pick it up in his absence."
Before leaving the game, Aaron Williams recorded three tackles against the Patriots. Williams brought a strong energy into the Week Two affair, but also was penalized twice in the first half, once for taunting and once for unnecessary roughness.
An update on his physical condition is expected Monday.