Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who is just under three weeks removed from his on-field cardiac arrest, reportedly spoke to the team in the locker room prior to Sunday’s Bills-Bengals playoff game.
via: New York Post
The end of an emotional year — punctuated by a particularly trying month — arrived for the Bills on Sunday.
It arrived far too early, a premature ending to a season the Bills and their fiercely loyal Bills Mafia hoped and believed had much more magic left in it.
The end result was one of bitter disappointment, a 27-10 loss to the Bengals in the AFC divisional-playoff game at Highmark Stadium that sends the Bengals — not the Bills — to the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs next Sunday.
There was a silver lining to this dark, snowy afternoon-into-evening for the Bills, though: Damar Hamlin was in the house in what was an emotional, powerful and full-circle moment that felt more important than the result on the field.
For the 24-year-old Buffalo safety, whose heart went into cardiac arrest while making a tackle in the Bills game against the Bengals on Jan. 2 in Cincinnati, it was his first public appearance.
He visited with his teammates inside the locker room before the game and watched the game from inside a suite, where late in the first half he was shown on the jumbo scoreboard screen making his trademark heart sign with his hands.
Professional athletes are selfish. Most want to win for themselves. The rush of victory as a pro athlete is a legalized drug that only a tiny percentage of the population gets to experience.
But the Bills desperately wanted to win this game for Hamlin. More than they wanted to win for themselves. They wanted to win a Super Bowl for him.
“Damar was in the locker room pregame and his presence was good for the guys and hopefully good for him,’’ Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. “In what I thought was a cool moment, even though the game wasn’t trending well for us, when they put him up on the scoreboard that was a good moment of perspective of where he was just a few weeks ago.’’
Hamlin was in a medically induced coma for a couple of days before making his stunning recovery.
“Just his presence was a warm feeling,’’ Bills quarterback Josh Allen said. “Obviously, we wanted to play for him and continue our mission. We just ran into a team that played better than us tonight.’’
The Hamlin scare was the latest in a series of difficult times the Bills and Western New Yorkers had to endure. There was the racially motivated supermarket shooting and the two deadly snowstorms that took dozens of lives.
The Bills, though, powered on. They were, in a lot of ways, relief for people in this area who’ve endured the trying times.
Hamlin’s recovery felt like a positive turning of the tide. He was an obvious inspiration for his teammates as they chased a first Super Bowl title for the franchise.
“Just his presence speaks volumes,’’ Bills center Mitch Morse said. “He’s not a big rah-rah guy. His presence alone, his smile, his positive energy, which he’s always had, always inject energy and good vibes with the group. It was really good to see him.’’
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 22, 2023