Orchard Park, NY — Damar Hamlin I stood barefoot on the field at Highmark Stadium and just stared straight ahead.
For the first time since suffering a heart attack in January. 2, Hamlin was preparing to play in a regular-season football game.
About an hour and a half later, the Buffalo Bills were announced out of the tunnel, with Hamlin the last player out. He ran to the other end of the field, putting his arms out as he neared the goal line. Jumping into the end zone, Hamlin took off his helmet and dropped it as Bills fans filled the stands screamed. He then knelt down before going to the sideline.
“That moment was everything to me,” Hamlin said of exiting the tunnel. “I think it was more about committing to myself than anything else — just showing myself that I’ve got courage, that I’ve got strength, that I’ve got pride, everything … To be able to go through something like that in me is painful and it’s To be able to come back from. To still be able to do what I love at the highest level in the world is amazing.”
Hamlin was a healthy scratch for the Bills’ first three games due to the number of defensive backs on the roster. But with safety Jordan Poyer Sidelined by a knee injury last week, a game-day roster spot opened up for Hamlin to play in the team’s 48-20 win over the Miami Dolphins.
If Poyer’s injury keeps him out for more games, Hamlin’s chances of being active for the Bills will increase.
Time to add a fifth-year safety and free agent Taylor Rap Filling in for Poyer on defense, Hamlin played a big role on special teams, appearing on most kickoffs and punts — 18 snaps (64.3%), including the opening kickoff.
He didn’t play the defensive snaps expected with Rapp and the starting safety Micah Hyde — who noted after the game that he was “extremely proud” of Hamlin — played 100% of the snaps on defense.
“Oh, it felt like he never left, it felt like he never left, man,” the Bills defensive back and special teams player said. Siron took it Said “When [Hamlin] Called this week, she was excited, and then so was I. And it’s a huge blessing to see him back on the field doing what he loves to do — and smiling all week, all teeth.
“He’s helped me inside, playing inside on punt returns, playing on kickoff returns, kickoffs and that — just him running out, running that field — is a huge blessing.”
Hamlin has been fully participating in practice since the end of OTAs after being declared physically cleared to return to football in the spring. Played in all three preseason games.
Returning to football was Hamlin’s choice, something he reiterated after Sunday’s contest. He said he knows his chance to play in a regular-season game will come again: “It’s just about being ready and being ready to do my part. That’s been my goal since I’ve been billed.”
The moment was far more important than Hamlin’s.
“What an afternoon overall. You put the win aside for just a second … Nine months ago, this young man is in the same state, and now he’s back,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “Spring, training camp, preseason, and now a regular-season game at the NFL level. You know, just a surreal moment … to watch.
“The cameras, you guys, the cameras swarmed around him. I made sure I stayed here, but he deserves the attention he gets. I love the fact that he makes it about the team in so many ways.”