The Buffalo Bills held practice on Thursday, January 5, their first since safety Damar Hamlin collapsed due to cardiac arrest during their Week 17 primetime game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football. While it seemed impossible for the Bills to power through and play the New England Patriots in Week 18 while their teammate remained in the ICU, a video call from Hamlin’s father changed everything.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweeted, “The positive Damar Hamlin developments over the last 24 hours have seriously galvanized the Bills locker room. Raucous applause went off when Mario Hamlin, Damar’s dad, addressed the team via Zoom. ‘We finally started to smile after that,’ one person with the team told me.”
Bills quarterback Josh Allen broke his silence on their traumatic night at Paycor Stadium during a 37-minute joint press conference with head coach Sean McDermott on Thursday, and fought back tears while discussing McDermott’s leadership under such duress.
“He was the perfect man in that situation to handle that type of situation,” Allen said of McDermott. “I can’t say enough about what he did and what he said to us in the locker room. Obviously, just a dire circumstance that nobody’s expecting, nobody’s ready for. There’s nothing you can train [for], you can never put yourself in that situation until it happens. I want to thank our training staff for going out there, not knowing what’s going on, but going through a checklist, working as a single-cell symbiote. It saved his life.”
“Being on that field,” Allen pauses to hold back tears… “You lose sleep. You hurt for your brother. A lot of shared grief. But getting updates, positive updates, eases so much of that pain and that tension that you feel. But coach (McDermott) handled it as perfect as anybody could.”
Allen struggled to convey exactly how he and his teammate felt in that moment on Monday, January 2. “The scene just replays over and over in your head,” the 26-year-old said. “It’s something we’ll never forget but knowing Damar is doing okay, and I know there’s still a lot of things and stuff that he has to process and continue to go through to get back to himself. Again, we heard that news this morning (January 5) and there’s nothing that could’ve been told to us to bring our day down.”
Mario Hamlin relayed to the team what Dr. Timothy Pritts and Dr. William Knight revealed during a press conference on Thursday afternoon. While the 24-year-old safety remains intubated at UC Medical Center to assist with breathing, his signs of physical and neurological improvement are remarkable.
“It’s not only that the lights are on. We know that he’s home. It appears all the cylinders are firing within his brain,” Dr. Pritts said.
After hearing one of Hamlin’s first questions was, “Who won the game?” — just as his father predicted — Allen couldn’t help but smile. “As teammates, you love hearing that response that the first thing on his mind wasn’t ‘poor me,’ it was how are my teammates doing, did we win this game? That’s powerful in itself. I don’t think people really understand the bond and the relationship and the brotherhood that you have as an NFL team, especially this one here. Guys love each other. We really do.”
Josh Allen: Bills Will Play on Sunday Because ‘That’s What Damar Would Want’
While the NFL has yet to make a final decision on when or if the Bills-Bengals game will be rescheduled, although all signs seem to point to it being declared a no-contest, per Pro Football Talk, the focus for Buffalo right now remains Hamlin, who has inspired the team to get back out onto the field.
When Allen was asked if the Bills will be ready to play, the team captain said yes.
“The things that (Damar’s dad) told us — well he didn’t tell us, he demanded us — you can’t not honor his request to go out there and charge forward to the best of our abilities. … But to know that that’s what (Hamlin) wants, that’s what his dad wants, I think guys are excited to get out there.”
The MVP candidate added, “We want to go out there and play for (No.) 3, and it’ll be a huge driving force.”
McDermott knows Bills Mafia’s presence will be a powerful source of strength in Orchard Park for their final regular season game.
“Knowing our fan base and the connection we have, and that they have with us; A) I think it’s going to be very emotional for everyone in the stadium and B) I think it’s going to be unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and we’re going to have to balance some of that in order to perform the way that we need to perform. But we’ve spent a number of games this season away … This is going to be really good timing — if there is good timing in any of this — for us to be home finally in front of our fans.”
Photos of the Bills Smiling at Practice Circulated on Social Media
The incredible news concerning Hamlin’s health has clearly reinvigorated the team. Photos of Bills practice on Thursday showed Allen, Tre’Davious White, Dane Jackson, and Taron Johnson, with huge smiles on their faces, which just a few days ago, seemed like an impossible task.
NFL Network‘s Cameron Wolfe tweeted on Thursday afternoon, “NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer says there’s still long way to go but all signs and optimism point to full neurological recovery for Damar Hamlin. Mayer added Hamlin woke up a lot sooner than expected.”