Skip to main content

Bills safety Damar Hamlin makes 'remarkable' return to playing field

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin's amazing comeback story added another uplifting chapter Saturday as the 25-year-old took part in NFL game action for the first time since he suffered a cardiac arrest on Jan. 2 in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hamlin played in the Bills' preseason Week 1 win over the visiting Indianapolis Colts at Highmark Stadium, seeing action on 24 snaps and recording three tackles.

"It was fun, it was super fun, it was a great experience, just another milestone and a step up to just getting back to myself as far as the football space," Hamlin said after the game. "Just chopping this tree down as much as I can, one step at a time."

While Hamlin tabbed the afternoon as a fun one, Bills head coach Sean McDermott had a bit of stronger take.

"What we just witnessed, to me, is remarkable," McDermott said. "It really is. It's a true sign of a young man's courage and, obviously, everyone that helped him get to this point. I know there's a football game going on out there today, but I mean, truly remarkable display of courage and strength and faith. Had a chance to communicate with Damar a little bit last night, and he assured me he was ready to go and was going to trust in his preparation and God, and I think that shows a lot about who he is."

With 11:38 remaining in the first quarter, Hamlin saw his first action, taking the field on the Bills' kickoff team.

Hamlin got his first defensive snaps on the Colts' second offensive drive. In a welcomed sign, Hamlin showed no hesitation getting in the mix.

"When you step in between those lines, you're putting yourself at risk by hesitating and reserving yourself," Hamlin said. "So, I made the choice that I wanted to play, it wasn't anybody else's choice but mine, so making that choice, I know what comes with it. So when you see my cleats laced up and my helmet and shoulder pads on, I'm going to go with no hesitation. Because you can't play this game like that, you'll put yourself at more risk if you hesitate. I'm out there just not thinking twice, just playing my game how I was taught to play since I was my little brother's age."

On third-and-2 from the Buffalo 41-yard line, Hamlin came off the edge to help hold the Colts, and on the ensuing fourth-and-1 play, he tackled Evan Hull for no gain and the turnover on downs. Later in the first, Hamlin was in on back-to-back tackles, including a solo tally in which he filled quickly.

"It for sure felt like a little weight off my shoulders," Hamlin said of making his first tackle. "I think it'll be like that probably every game. But even before my situation it's kind of like that, we all get butterflies until we get that first contact. That's universal for being an athlete, that just lets you know you're human, that just lets you know you live in the moment."

A 2021 NFL Draft sixth-round pick of the Bills, Hamlin appeared in 14 games as a rookie before he was a 13-game starter with 91 tackles in 2022 prior to the frightening conclusion to his campaign.

Hamlin, 25, took the field just under 32 weeks after a collision with Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins resulted in him suffering commotio cordis, which caused his cardiac arrest. Commotio cordis causes cardiac arrest following a blunt impact to the chest at a precise moment during the heart rhythm which disrupts the heartbeat.

Hamlin received CPR on the field and was then transported via ambulance to the University of Cincinnati, where he remained in critical condition for nearly a week. He was later transported to Buffalo for further treatment prior to being discharged on Jan. 11.

The road to Saturday saw Hamlin cleared to resume football activities in April, participate in team drills during June’s organized team activities and take part as a full participant during training camp over the past two weeks.

Naturally, the next step for Hamlin will be returning to the field for the regular season when the Bills kick off their 2023 campaign on Sept. 11 versus the New York Jets.

Related Content