Bills Head Coach Gets Honest About Damar Hamlin’s Potential Return

Damar Hamlin

Getty Damar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills poses at a game between the 76ers and Heat at Wells Fargo Center on February 27, 2023.

While the return of Jordan Poyer will be a huge boost for the Buffalo Bills‘ defense, especially knowing fellow All-Pro safety Micah Hyde will be healthy and ready to go, there’s a big question mark surrounding Damar Hamlin‘s status, who went into cardiac arrest while playing against the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2.

The safety’s recovery has been remarkable thus far, but whether he’ll be able to play this season remains unknown. Bills head coach Sean McDermott addressed Hamlin’s situation while speaking to NFL Network‘s Judy Battista at the Annual League Meeting on Saturday, March 24, and gave a no-frills answer about his potential return.

“The amount of courage it’s going to take to re-engage again is unbeknownst to many of us,” McDermott said, noting that Hamlin’s emotional state is just as important as his physical clearance. “I’m ready to support him in any direction he decides to go, even if it’s last minute.”

“The best thing we can do is support him all the way through this, and that is a big piece of it that is, mind, body and spirit,” McDermott said. “It’s just not physically like, hey, in the weight room, it’s the mental piece as well.”

After surviving such a traumatic health scare on Monday Night Football, it’s easy to understand how returning to the field would be a daunting endeavor. Pro Football Talk‘s Mike Florio saw McDermott’s comment and wrote, “Indeed it is. What player has ever tried to come back and play after nearly dying on the field?”

Danish soccer superstar Christian Eriksen, 31, was able to return to play after suffering cardiac arrest on the pitch mid-game. Like Hamlin, Eriksen was resuscitated on the field before getting taken to the hospital. After 259 days of recovery, Eriksen returned to compete in the English Premier League, per CNN.

NFLPA Medical Director Said ‘I Guarantee’ Hamlin Will Play Again

Back in early February, Thom Mayer, the NFL Players Association Medical Director, made a bold promise about Hamlin’s future during an appearance on SiriusXM’s Doctor Radio Show. “I don’t want to get into HIPAA issues, but I guarantee you that Damar Hamlin will play professional football again.”

During a press conference in mid-March, Bills general manager Brandon Beane provided an update on the 25-year-old’s status. “He’s dialed in. He definitely has every intention to play,” Beane said. “I know of one more visit, but I think they’ll get wrapped up by sometime in April, as it stands now.”

“Everything has checked out to this point, and so it’s trending in the right direction,” Beane added. “But we’ll get him through all those and then we’ll make sure all of our medical people are hearing all those opinions on each visit and make sure that we’re all on the same page of what it would look like. But we’re rooting for him. He wants to do it and we want to see him do it, and that’s probably where it’s at today.”

Even With His Season Cut Short, Hamlin Accrued A Major Pay Bonus

Damar Hamlin

GettyDamar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills reacts after a missed Pittsburgh Steelers field goal during the second quarter at Highmark Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York.

Before Hamlin’s medical emergency, the former sixth-round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft, was having a great season. On March 17, the NFL announced that it distributed $336 million in performance-based pay, which benefits players with lower salaries and high incentives baked into their contracts.

Hamlin, who filled in for Hyde after he went down with a neck injury in Week 2, started 13 of 15 games during the 2022 NFL season and recorded 91 total tackles. He received the 21st-highest bonus in the NFL, earning him an additional $652,470, per a league memo.

This bonus money comes on top of Hamlin’s base salary, which the team fully guaranteed following his cardiac arrest. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted on January 8, “Hamlin was set to earn $825K in 2022. His split rate if he’s on Injured Reserve is $455K. Placed on IR this week, that’s a difference of $20,555.56. Buffalo worked it out so he’ll receive the whole thing, even though he’s not on the active roster.”

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