ORCHARD PARK, NY —Three weeks after suffering cardiac arrest on the field in a game in Cincinnati, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin rejoined his teammates on Sunday to attend their AFC divisional playoff game against the Bengals.
With two minutes to go in the first half, Hamlin appeared on the stadium video board, opening the window to the suite where he was watching the game and making his signature “heart” sign to an explosion of cheers from the Bills faithful.
“I thought it was a pretty cool moment; the game wasn’t trending the way we wanted it to, but when they put him on the big screen, just a great moment, keeping perspective on where he was just a few weeks ago, Bills coach Sean McDermott said after the 27-10 loss.
It was Hamlin’s first appearance in public since the Jan. 2 game between the Bills and Bengals that was suspended and then canceled when Hamlin’s heart stopped beating after he made a tackle on wide receiver Tee Higgins.
McDermott said Hamlin visited with the team during pregame, in the locker room.
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“Just him being in the locker room, his presence, I think it was good for the guys and hopefully, good for him,” McDermott said.
“So, super happy for him and thankful that his health is returning and I know he’ll continue to take it one day at a time.”
After spending a week in the ICU in Cincinnati before coming home to Buffalo to continue his recovery, Hamlin returned to the locker room at Highmark Stadium on Sunday afternoon, with the assistance of security personnel – as the Bills documented on social media.
The CBS pregame show aired a clip of Hamlin riding with two other people in the security vehicle. The network also showed his mother and younger brother in attendance.
“Just his presence speaks volumes,” Bills center Mitch Morse said. “He’s not a big rah-rah guy. I’m sure at some point he’s a little bit exhausted of people asking how he’s doing or put in a position that he didn’t ask to be put in. His presence alone, his smile , his positive energy, which he’s always had, always interjects energy and good vibes with the group.
“It was really good to see him. I’m really happy for the fans, the crowd, for him to be able to go out there. He’s worked very hard to get to the position he’s in right now.”
Bills coach Sean McDermott said Hamlin began making regular facility visits to the team’s soon after his release from the hospital in what he described as “dipping his toe back in here and getting on the road to just get back to himself.”
Contributing: The Associated Press