ORCHARD PARK — Nearly four months ago, Bills safety Damar Hamlin was resuscitated by the on-site medical staff after suffering cardiac arrest during Buffalo’s Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals and subsequently endured a lengthy recovery process.
On Tuesday, Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott were pleased to announce that Hamlin is now cleared to resume playing football after meeting with three medical specialists this offseason who all agreed that the third-year pro has cleared all physical hurdles necessary to return to action.
“We’re super excited for Damar. He’s moving forward one step at a time here. He’s been cleared from a physical standpoint,” said McDermott. “We’ll provide all the mental help we can from a mind, body and spirit standpoint. So, just happy for him that he’s been able to check some of those boxes to this point and we’re moving forward but taking it one day at a time.”
Hamlin, 25, said he’s going to attempt to resume his NFL career after receiving the good news.
“This event was life-changing, but it’s not the end of my story,” Hamlin told reporters. “I’m here to announce that I plan on making a comeback to the NFL.”
Hamlin said the goal was always to play again throughout his rehabilitation process.
“My heart is still in it. My heart is still in the game. I love the game,” Hamlin said. “It’s something I want to prove to myself, not nobody else.”
Beane reflected on how far Hamlin has come from that frightening moment in January.
“It’s exciting to, you know, to go from a guy who was fighting for his life, to (where) he is now ... his story hasn’t been written,” Beane said. “Now, it’s about the comeback. And so, to see that ... it was all about his health, and it still (is) always gonna be about his health. But to truly, you know, however many months later be talking about he’s been fully cleared is pretty remarkable. ... I’m excited for him and his family and where they are in this journey.”
Beane said that the team’s medical staff has relied on the opinions of several specialists over the course of the past several months to determine Hamlin’s football future.
“This is one of those things where it’s not our expertise,” said Beane, who revealed Hamlin has seen several specialists since leaving the hospital in Cincinnati months ago, most recently. “So we basically are following the lead of them — if they say he’s cleared.”
Hamlin was diagnosed with Commotio Cordis, which is usually caused by a hit in the chest at exactly the wrong moment in relation to the heartbeat. The quick response to Hamlin’s collapse by medical personnel in Cincinnati saved his life.
“It’s a direct blow at a specific point in your heartbeat that causes cardiac arrest. Five to seven seconds later, you fall out, and that’s pretty much what everybody’s seen Jan. 2 of this year,” Hamlin told reporters. “Commotio cordis is the leading cause of death in youth athletes across all sports, so that’s something that I will personally be taking a step in to make a change.”
Since being selected by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft Hamlin’s appeared in 29 games, including 13 starts a season ago after Micah Hyde was lost for the season with a neck injury following Buffalo’s Week 2 win over the Tennessee Titans. Before he was lost for the season, Hamlin recorded 91 combined tackles, six of which came for a loss, 1.5 sacks and two passes defended along with a forced fumble.
“Right when this thing happened, that was his mindset from the very start — I’m going to play again,” said Bills quarterback Josh Allen. “And you’re never going to doubt a guy like that who has had a lot of adversity in his life and he has continued to find ways. And this is another obstacle that he’s been able to get around and push forward. Super excited for him, super excited for our team. He’s a heck of a football player and we love having him back.”
After suffering cardiac arrest, Hamlin has traveled the country spreading CPR awareness, encouraging many to get certified in hopes of being available to respond in a situation such as the one he experienced in Cincinnati.
“It’s just truly remarkable to see what happened,” said Bills safety Micah Hyde.
Hamlin established himself as an important piece on the Bills defense before his incident. He is confident he can earn a roster spot in his third season.
“I’ve been beating statistics my whole life,” Hamlin said. “I like my chances here.”
Times wire services contributed to this report.
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