ORCHARD PARK, NY –Three weeks after suffering an on-field cardiac arrest during 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 left in the first half, Hamlin appeared on the stadium video board, opened the window to the suite where he watched the game, and made his trademark “heart” sign to an explosion of cheers from the Bills— believers.
“I thought it was a pretty cool moment; the game wasn’t trending the way we wanted it to, but when they put it on the big screen, just a great moment, to keep perspective on where it was a few weeks ago,” said Bills coach Sean McDermott after the 27-10 loss.
It was Hamlin’s first public appearance since the January 2 game between the Bills and Bengals to be suspended and then canceled when Hamlin’s heart stopped beating after making a tackle on wide receiver Tee Higgins.
McDermott said Hamlin visited the team during pregame, in the locker room.
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“Just being in the dressing room, his presence, I think it was good for the boys and hopefully good for him,” said McDermott.
“So super happy for him and thankful that his health is returning and I know he’s going to keep taking 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 help of security personnel — as the Bills documented on social media.
The CBS pregame show aired a clip of Hamlin riding in the security vehicle with two other people. The network also showed his mother and younger brother in attendance.
“His presence alone speaks volumes,” said Bills center Mitch Morse. “He’s not a big rah-rah man. I’m sure at some point he’s a little tired of people asking how he’s doing or being put in a position he didn’t ask for. His presence alone , his smile , his positive energy, which he has always had, always brings energy and good vibes to the group.
“It was really good to see him. I’m really happy for the fans, the audience, that he can go out. He’s worked really hard to get to the position he’s in now.”
Bills coach Sean McDermott said Hamlin began visiting the team’s facility regularly shortly after his release from the hospital, in what he described as “dipping his toe back in here and heading out to just get back to himself.”
Contributions: The Associated Press