The January 2, 2023 football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals had all the hype of a playoff game. Cincinnati entered at 11-4 and Buffalo at 12-3, with playoff seeding still up for grabs. Football was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind a little less than ten minutes into the game after what appeared to be a routine catch and tackle involving Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins and Bills safety Damar Hamlin.
What appeared routine turned into a nightmare as Hamlin collapsed following the tackle. Medical teams worked on him for nearly nine minutes on the field after he suffered cardiac arrest. Hamlin made remarkable improvement in a few days and was able to communicate via writing.
Following steady progress, Hamlin was eventually moved from the medical center in Cincinnati back home on January 9. While recovery continued to be remarkable, the last thing on anyone’s mind was a return to the NFL. Now that appears to be a reality.
Hamlin has been fully cleared to resume playing football, according to Bills general manager Brandon Beane.
Following a visit to his last specialist on April 14, Hamlin was in attendance and participating in voluntary workouts with the Bills this week. Hamlin visited three different specialists, who were all in agreement that he could return to the field in an NFL game.
Although that appeared to be nothing but a fantasy, Hamlin had hopes to return to the field already back in February. He knew that would be way down the road, but he said, “Eventually, that’s always the goal. I’m a competitor, and I’m trying to do things to keep advancing my situation. I’m allowing that to be in God’s hands. I’m just thankful he gave me a second chance.”
Hamlin has been very busy promoting the increased availability of automated external defibrillators, which saved his life on the field. He spent time in Washington, D.C> and met with President Biden at the White House.
Hamlin won the NFLPA’s most prestigious award, the Alan Page Community Award, for his work helping other people. In addition, his Chasing M’s Foundation raised a whopping $9 million in just a few days following the incident on the field. A significant amount of that money was raised on GoFundMe for a toy drive.
Hamlin was selected in the 6th round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Pittsburgh. A native of the area, Hamlin played at Central Catholic (PA) high school before his collegiate career. He played in 14 games as a 23-year-old rookie in 2021, mostly on special teams. Getting a chance to start last season, Hamlin made 91 tackles, including 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Despite having not played since the incident on January 2, and with a huge amount of doubt about whether he would play again, Hamlin is listed second on the Bills’ depth chart at strong safety. Jordan Poyer, a 32-year-old out of Oregon State, is listed as the starter. Poyer had 63 tackles and four interceptions in 12 games last season.