ORCHARD PARK, NY — At the two-minute warning in the first half of the Buffalo Bills’ divisional round playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, an image flashed on screens at Highmark Stadium as snow fell to the ground. .
At first, it was hard to see exactly who or what was shown, but a graphic appeared in the bottom third with the words: “Damar Hamlin, Bills safety.”
Eventually, Hamlin came through, raising his hands in the shape of a heart in what has become his signature move as he cheered on the crowd who cheered loudly to see him despite the Bills’ struggles on the field.
“I think it was a very good moment,” coach Sean McDermott said after the season-ending 27-10 loss. “The game wasn’t trending the way we wanted it to. But when they put it on the big screen, and it was a great time, keep perspective, of course, on where it was just a few weeks ago. Very happy for it and grateful to that his health is returning. And I know he will continue to take it one day at a time.”
Hamlin returned to a Bills game for the first time with his family, including mother Nina, father Mario and brother Damir, taking defeat in a luxury box at Highmark.
Before the game, Hamlin also visited his teammates in the locker room. He did not go out on the field.
“Just his presence, I think it says a lot,” center Mitch Morse said. “…He’s not much of a rah-rah guy and I’m sure at some point he’s a little tired of people asking him how he’s doing or being put in a position he didn’t ask to be put in. His presence alone, his smile, his positive energy, which he’s always had, always injects energy and good vibes with the group. It was very good to see him. I’m very happy for the fans, the crowd, that he’s able to come out and he’s worked very hard to get there to the position it’s in now.”
Hamlin’s visit came nearly three weeks after he went into cardiac arrest on the field during the first quarter of the Bills’ Week 17 game against the Bengals. McDermott said Wednesday that Hamlin had been at the facility “almost every day,” including Tuesday and Wednesday, but was not participating in team meetings and was taking “one step, one baby step at a time.” .
McDermott said Friday that the team and Hamlin were “just following Damar’s cadence.”
“It’s what he needs and how can we help him and how our training staff can help serve him and we can serve him, and like anybody would, we’re just trying to be there for him and walk at his pace, so to talk, to play with words,” McDermott said. “But we’re there for him and we want the best for him right now. So it’s been good to have him around when he’s been there.”
Hamlin, 24, stayed at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for nearly a week after going into cardiac arrest on January 2. He then flew to Buffalo and spent about two days at the Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute. He was discharged on January 11.
For the third straight game, 3-pointers at the 30-yard lines at Highmark were outlined in blue for Hamlin.
Hamlin did not attend the Bills’ victory over the Miami Dolphins to start the playoffs, but he was watching from home. He first visited the team at their practice facility on January 14, attending the tour with family members.
While the Bills’ season is over, having Hamlin in the building and with the team helped a lot, the players said.
“Just his presence was a warm feeling and obviously we wanted to play for him and continue our mission,” quarterback Josh Allen said. “And again, we ran into a team that outplayed us tonight.”