Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has shown what physicians treating him are calling “remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours,” the team announced, three days after the player went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field.
“While still critically ill, he has demonstrated that he appears to be neurologically intact,” the Bills said in a statement.
“His lungs continue to heal and he is making steady progress.”
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Hamlin’s agent, Ronald Butler, told The Associated Press that Hamlin was awake and has been able to grip the hands of family members at his hospital bedside.
The developments came as the Bills were scheduled to return to practice for the first time since Hamlin collapsed when his heart stopped after making a tackle and was rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center during the first quarter of Buffalo’s game against the Bengals on Tuesday ( AEDT).
The second year player spent the past two days sedated and listed in critical condition.
Dr Timothy Pritts said in a conference call that neurological signs of improvement began on Thursday (AEDT) as Hamlin gradually woke up, with the rest of his body healing.
Hamlin was able to communicate by writing – he cannot speak because of a breathing tube in his throat.
NFL player collapses following a tackle
“Last night he was able to emerge and follow commands and even asked who had won the game,” Pritts said.
The game was suspended after Hamlin collapsed and it hasn’t been determined if or when it will resume.
“The answer is yes, Damar, you won the game of life,” Pritts said.
Dr. William Knight credited the quick medical response with saving Hamlin’s life.
He said a physician was within Hamlin’s side within a minute of him collapsing and recognized that the defensive back did not have a pulse.
Knight said Hamlin required CPR and resuscitation on the field.
“It’s been a long and difficult road for the last three days…he has made a pretty remarkable improvement,” Knight said.
The good news came as the Bills prepare to play a home game against the New England Patriots, and with the team still dealing with the shock of seeing their teammate collapse on the field.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick called the update on Hamlin’s health encouraging.
“Life is bigger than this game. And I think this is one of those humbling moments for all of us,” Belichick said.
As to how his players were dealing with preparations for the game scheduled for Monday (AEDT), he said they are navigating it by the moment.
“I think we’re all doing the best that we can,” Belichick said.
“All of those questions are out of our control. I’m not going to worry about any of those. We’re trying to control what we can control. That’s what we’re doing here and how we’re doing it. And we’re doing the best we can.”
After returning home once the game was suspended, the Bills held meetings and a walkthrough practice without any media availability on Thursday (AEDT).
On Friday (AEDT), players were spotted arriving at the facility, though the team has not yet released a practice schedule.
Numerous players across the league — former teammates and those who didn’t know Hamlin until this week — voiced their support, while saying they were shaken by what unfolded in front of a huge TV audience.
Colts safety Rodney Thomas made the two hour drive from Indianapolis to Cincinnati just to be by the side of his former high school teammate.
“He’s a fighter. I know he’s a fighter and there’s no other thought in my mind other than him walking out under his own power,” Thomas said.
Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, who spent the previous four seasons playing for Buffalo, had dinner delivered to the hospital for Hamlin’s family and medical staff.
Hamlin’s marketing representative, Jordon Rooney, said that the player’s family was buoyed by the words and acts of kindness.
“They are elated right now,” Rooney said.
“Damar is still their first concern. But for them, they always look at how they can turn a somewhat troubling situation into a good one. The bounce back from this, for him and his family is going to be incredible.”
The NFL will not resume the Bills-Bengals game which had major playoff implications.
Buffalo (12-3) entered the game needing a win to maintain the AFC’s No.1 seed.
The Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) currently hold that spot.
The Bengals (11-4) had a chance to earn that top seed with two more wins and a loss by the Chiefs.
The league is still figuring out how to determine playoff seedings and scheduling.
The NFL Players Association must approve changes.
The playoffs are set to open on January 15 (AEDT).
Hamlin was hurt in the first quarter when he was struck squarely in the chest while making what appeared to be a routine tackle of Bengals receiver Tee Higgins.
Hamlin briefly got up and adjusted his face mask before collapsing backward.
Hamlin was selected by Buffalo in the sixth round of the 2021 draft out of Pittsburgh.
He spent his rookie season limited to special teams roles, and took over the starting safety job in week three in place of veteran Micah Hyde, who remains sidelined by a neck injury.
Fans, team owners and players — including Tom Brady and Russell Wilson — have made donations to Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation, which had raised more than $10 million by Friday (AEDT). – with Rob Maaddi
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