Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, waved to fans from a stadium suite on Sunday during the two teams’ rematch in the AFC divisional playoff game, which the Bills ultimately lost 27-10. This was Hamlin’s first public outing since suffering a cardiac arrest after making a tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals three weeks prior.
When a picture of the recovering Hamlin filled the enormous screens in the end zones toward the end of the first half, the fans at Highmark Stadium exploded. Cheering spectators turned to face the glass-enclosed suite.
Hamlin, wearing a hooded jacket, stood in front of the windows and raised his arms as if saluting the crowd and encouraging it to get on its feet as the Bengals were facing second-and-goal at their 5. He ended by forming a heart sign with his hands, his signature gesture.
In the footage, Hamlin can be seen pulling up in a golf cart about an hour before kickoff while donning a face mask, sunglasses, and a hooded jacket. Damir, his brother, who is 7 years old, and his mother, Nina, were with him.
Josh Allen, the quarterback for the Bills, said that being around him felt “warm.”
“Obviously, we wanted to play for him … We just ran into a team that played better than us tonight,” Allen said after the loss.
Before the game began in the snow, Hamlin was not visible. The Bills didn’t make a statement about his whereabouts, but when he showed up on the screens, knowledge of his attendance had already circulated.
“It was amazing, it was. I think everybody got so excited,” fan Brin Jobson of Buffalo said at halftime. “We heard he might be here, so it was cool to see him.”
Hamlin, 24, had not been seen in public since the Bills and Bengals last faced off on Jan. 2 in a game that was later called off due to Hamlin’s first-quarter collapse on the field.
Soon after being released from the hospital, according to Bills coach Sean McDermott, Hamlin started coming to the team’s facility daily, “dipping his toe back in here and beginning on the road to just getting back to himself.”
According to McDermott, Hamlin’s game-time appearance was “simply a tremendous moment,” mainly because his heart was restarted by medical staff just weeks prior using an AED and CPR.
Instead, the viewers who came in for several minutes to watch that Monday night game observed the terror and grief on the players’ faces, some of which were smeared with tears.
“Just him being in the locker room (Sunday), his presence was good for the guys,” McDermott said.
This Monday, a spokeswoman for Hamlin’s family stated that he still has protracted rehabilitation ahead of him. According to Jordon Rooney, “Damar still needs oxygen and is having his heart tested routinely to ensure there are no setbacks or aftereffects.”
The results of the tests Hamlin underwent to figure out why his heart stopped after he was struck in the chest while making what seemed to be a routine tackle have not been made public by the Bills.
Hamlin, a native of the Pittsburgh region, live-tweeted on January 8 from his hospital bed at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center as Buffalo defeated New England 35–23 to end the season. He tweeted live last weekend when the Bills defeated Miami in a wild-card playoff, 34-31, from his house.