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Bills safety Damar Hamlin participates in first padded practice since cardiac arrest

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin hit another milestone on Monday, participating in his first padded practice since suffering a cardiac arrest during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2.

"I made a decision," Hamlin told reporters following practice. "My family, my mom and my dad, they were behind me either way I wanted to go, playing or not. But if this is the decision we're gonna make, we're gonna go with it and keep going. So I made my decision. I'm living with it."

Hamlin said that while there are emotions when facing the prospect of contact for the first time since suffering commotio cordis -- a rare cause of cardiac arrest started by a blow to the chest in a precise spot at the wrong time in the heartbeat -- he won't live his life afraid.

"In football, you can't hit that field with ... hesitation," he said. "You're putting yourself in more danger by doing that. Like I said, I made the choice to play. I'm processing a thousand emotions. I'm not afraid to say that it crosses my mind of being a little scared here and there. Like I say, my strength is rooted in my faith, and my faith is stronger than any fear. That's what I want to preach up here, and that's the message I want to spread on to the world. As long as your faith is stronger than your fear, you can get through anything. That's what I'm living by right now."

On Jan. 2, Hamlin received CPR on the field after he collapsed following a collision with Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. He was rushed by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he was in critical condition. He spent nearly a week in the Cincinnati hospital before being flown to Buffalo for further treatment. He was discharged on Jan. 11.

Since being medically cleared, Hamlin has vowed to return to the field. He's got the full support of the entire Bills organization.

"It's great. Gave Damar a big hug this morning," Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane told NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero on Monday's edition of Inside Training Camp Live. "Just super proud of him and where he's at. His parents and his brother are here today to support him, first day of pads. So, great story. The mental toughness that this young man's been through from almost losing his life to now he's back playing in Day 1 of pads. So, he's still getting reps like a lot of these guys and competing (for) whatever his role would be on this team. But just excited that he's out here Day 1 of pads."

Participating in padded practice is the latest hurdle the 25-year-old has leaped since becoming the face of cardiac arrest incidents in sports. Hamlin is taking his comeback one day at a time.

"Right now, my goal is just one day at a time," Hamlin said on Monday. "Even my big goals, I can't even focus on those right now. So my goal is just one day at a time, just coming out in practice, focusing on one period, one second, one play, one step at a time, honestly. So you know, my big goals, I can't even mention them right now because I'd be in the wrong headspace just thinking about them. Thinking that far down the line, it makes me, not lose focus, but it puts emotions inside of me that I don't even need to be dealing with or processing right now. ... My mindset right now is just being ready for the Buffalo Bills whenever they need me."

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