Week 18 of the NFL kicks off on Saturday, January 7, and all 16 games will be honoring Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who remains hospitalized at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. During ESPN on NFL’s pregame live broadcast, Rex Ryan, who served as head coach for the Bills between 2015 and 2016, got emotional while discussing the 24-year-old’s remarkable recovery.
“When he came out… ‘Did we win?’… we needed that,” Ryan said, unable to hold back his tears. “I mean this guy is a legend… a legend. You talk about a fighter? Dang right he is a fighter. He is a dang legend. Thank you. I needed it as a dad, as a coach and as a fan of this game.”
Ryan apologizes for not being able to keep his composure, which his co-hosts wave off as unnecessary. Video of the moment quickly went viral on Twitter as viewers felt the exact same way after learning Hamlin woke up and one of his first questions was, “Did we win?”
UC Medical Center’s Dr. Timothy Pritts said during a press conference earlier this week that he responded by saying, “Yes, Damar, you won. You won the game of life.”
In response to Ryan’s emotional words ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders, “We all felt that and needed that,” one fan tweeted, while another person wrote, “Rex Ryan we all got your back big fella. You spoke for all of America right there man! #HamlinStrong.”
The Bills Shared Another Update on Hamlin on Saturday
The Bills shared another official update on Hamlin’s status on Saturday. The team tweeted, “Per the physicians at UC Medical Center, Damar is making continued progress in his recovery yet remains in critical condition. He continues to breathe on his own and his neurological function is excellent.”
While it’s not a huge improvement from the day before, no steps backward is still great news. On January 6, the team shared the following update: “Per the physicians at UCMC, Damar’s breathing tube was removed overnight. He continues to progress remarkably in his recovery. His neurologic function remains intact and he has been able to talk to his family and care team.”
Bills head coach Sean McDermott said Hamlin flexed his muscles for the team during a Facetime call and said, “I love you, boys,” per the team’s official website. General manager Brandon Beane, who remained in Cincinnati through Wednesday before returning on Thursday to be near Hamlin and his family, called the team’s final regular season game “a celebration of life and an ongoing life.”
“I’m sure it’s going to be a great seat if you’ve got a ticket to come here and just to be a part of this atmosphere. The hair on the back of my neck is standing up right now thinking about it.”
The Bills Need the Chiefs to Lose to the Raiders
Ahead of Week 17, the Bills sat in first place atop the AFC while the Cincinnati Bengals were right on their heels in third place just behind the Kansas City Chiefs. With the Bills-Bengals matchup declared a no-contest, the Bills no longer control their destiny. The only path for the Bills to retain the No.1 seed in the AFC is to beat the New England Patriots on Sunday, January 8, and hope the Chiefs lose to the Raiders on Saturday.
If both the Bills and Chiefs win in Week 18, Kansas City will remain the No. 1 seed and get a bye if they defeat the Raiders. SB Nation reported, “With a victory over the New England Patriots, they’d end with a 13-3 record for a winning percentage of 0.8125. A Kansas City victory over the Las Vegas Raiders would put them at 14-3, for a percentage of 0.8235, barely edging out Buffalo.”
If the Bills lose to the Patriots, and the Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens in Week 18, Buffalo will fall to the No. 3 seed.