Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is breathing on his own and able to talk after having his breathing tube removed, his agent and the team said Friday — the latest step in his remarkable recovery in the four days since going into cardiac arrest and being resuscitated on the field during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bills said Friday in a statement that Hamlin’s “neurologic function remains intact and he has been able to talk to his family and care team.” The development was first reported by The Athletic.
“He continues to progress remarkably in his recovery,” the Bills said in a tweet.
In another tweet, the team said he joined players and coaches for their daily meeting via FaceTime and said: “Love you boys.”
Speaking with reporters, Bills coach Sean McDermott called the moment “amazing” and “touching.”
“I probably won’t be able to do it justice,” McDermott said. “… To see Damar, No. 1, through my own eyes, I know it’s something I’ve been looking forward to, kind of needing to see, I guess.”
McDermott said he kept it a secret from the team before announcing he had “a treat in store” for them — putting Hamlin on the big screen in the meeting room.
“They stood up right away and clapped for him and yelled some things to him, and it was a pretty cool exchange for a few seconds there,” McDermott said.
Hamlin flexed his arms — drawing a laugh from the coach — put his hands together to form a heart and gave his teammates a thumbs-up, McDermott said.
“He’s just an infectious young man with an infectious personality,” McDermott said.
Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins later told reporters the team has been riding a roller coaster and was experiencing “a positive energy right now.”
“We got to see our guy, and we got to see 3 smile, and that’s literally all we wanted, you know?” Dawkins said. “He’s here with us, and that’s all that we can ask for, is that he’s taking steps forward, so it’s still very emotional for a lot of guys, and we’re happy, we’re blessed and extremely thankful.”
The 24-year-old Hamlin was still listed Thursday in critical condition in the intensive care unit of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Aside from being able to communicate by writing, Hamlin was also been able to grip people’s hands.
“So we know that it’s not only that the lights are on. We know that he’s home. And it appears that all the cylinders are firing within his brain, which is greatly gratifying for all of us,” Dr. Timothy Pritts said. “He still has significant progress he needs to make, but this marks a really good turning point in his ongoing care.”
Hamlin’s recovery continues to trend in a positive direction after his heart stopped while making what appeared to be a routine tackle in the first quarter of a game against the Bengals on Monday night. The second-year player spent his first two days in the hospital under sedation to allow his body to recover, and on a ventilator to assist his breathing.
The Bills were uplifted by the encouraging medical reports as they returned to practice Thursday in preparation to play a home game against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
The sight of Hamlin collapsing, which was broadcast to a North American TV audience on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” has led to an outpouring of support from fans and players from across the league. 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 $7.8 million by Friday morning.
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