Just four days after his stunning cardiac arrest on the field, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is breathing on his own and talking to family, doctors and teammates – positive updates which the Bills players say will strengthen them in this weekend’s matchup against the New England Patriots.
“To hear him speak to us, that was everything, and what we needed. Literally everything we needed,” Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins said of the team’s video call Friday with Hamlin, who is still receiving treatment at a Cincinnati hospital.
Hamlin – who was sedated and placed on a ventilator after his collapse on Monday – started waking up late this week and could have his breathing tube removed before Friday morning, doctors said.
“I love you guys,” the 24-year-old told his team Friday via FaceTime, according to head coach Sean McDermott, who added that Hamlin flexed his arms and made the hand gesture of his heart during the call.
Since collapsing during the “Monday Night Football” game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, Hamlin “continues to make remarkable progress in his recovery” and “his neurological function remains intact,” the Bills. he tweeted Friday, citing his doctors.
Dawkins described the emotional “roller coaster” this week has been for the team – who watched in shock as Hamlin received CPR on the field and was carried from the stadium in an ambulance. But he said that the news of Hamlin’s significant improvement “will definitely motivate us” in the team’s match on Sunday against the Patriots.
“The excitement was nice, it was amazing,” he said of the call with Hamlin. “She gave us so much energy, so many strong and powerful spirits – whatever you want to call it – she gave us to see the face of that child.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said Hamlin’s continued recovery is “uplifting news” for the city of Buffalo, which has recently been hit by several tragedies, including a racist mass shooting and a brutal blizzard that left at least 41 dead in Erie County.
“What happened to Damar Hamlin, his injury, was another punch in the gut to the city of Buffalo and to see him recover in such a remarkable way is certainly uplifting in our community and across the country ,” Brown told CNN’s Kate Bolduan Friday.
After millions watched Hamlin’s emergency play live, an outpouring of support came from fans and strangers across the nation, many of whom bought his jersey or donated to his foundation’s charity fund , which reached $8 million raised as of Saturday morning. Teams around the NFL also rallied behind the Bills player by wearing his number, 3, lighting up stadiums and scoreboards, and sharing words of solidarity.
The shows of support will continue this weekend as the league prepares for an emotional return to competition for the final games of the regular season on Saturday and Sunday. The NFL plans to honor Hamlin before each game.
The NFL announced Thursday that the Bills-Bengals game — which was initially postponed Monday night — will not be restarted or made up.
The cancellation will have no effect on which teams qualify for the playoffs, as both the Bills and Bengals have already clinched spots. But the imbalance in the number of games played led the league to approve unprecedented provisions for the postseason based on how the Bills and Bengals are seeded and their potential opponents.
As players enter the final week of the regular season, the NFL announced several ways teams can honor Hamlin ahead of this weekend’s game, including holding a “moment of support” before the game or outline the “3” on the 30 yard line in the Bills’ red or blue colors.
Players also have the option of wearing shirts emblazoned with “Love for Damar 3” during warmups and the Bills will wear the “3” patches on their jerseys, the NFL said.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane — who stayed in Cincinnati after the game’s postponement to be with Hamlin and his family — praised the united message of support around the league this week , noting how characteristically competitive the sport is.
“Yes, we go to battle. But at the end of the day, life is the number one battle,” Beane said Friday. “And to see that unity from players, coaches, (general managers), owners, supporters, is unheard of. But I think it’s a good light. He sheds a great light on the NFL. The NFL really is a family.”
The NFL Players Association named Hamlin its Week 18 Community MVP, and announced that the organization will donate $10,000 to his Chasing M’s Foundation.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders said he was able to video chat with Hamlin, telling him, “You know you’re the most famous person in the world right now?”
Hamlin replied, “But not for the right reasons,” according to Sanders, who told Hamlin, “You’re blessed, brother, you don’t know how blessed you are.”
Sanders describes Hamlin as his best friend and said the two talked after every game, according to him NFL Network reporter James Palmer.