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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Bills say Hamlin is improving while still in critical condition

The Bills’ home field, Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., is scheduled to host Buffalo’s game with the New England Patriots on Sunday.

By Kris Rhim

NFL safety Damar Hamlin “has shown remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours,” the Buffalo Bills said Thursday, after he went into cardiac arrest during a game this week.

“While still critically ill, he has demonstrated that he appears to be neurologically intact. His lungs continue to heal and he is making steady progress,” the Bills said, attributing the update to doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

On Monday night, Bills players watched in horror as Hamlin, 24, laid on the field and medical staff attempted to restart his heart after he had collapsed and fell backward following a routine tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin remained on the field for 10 minutes before being transported to the hospital.

The game was suspended, and Bills receiver Stefon Diggs was shown in a hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants walking into the hospital. Later that night, the team flew back to Buffalo, New York.

“I’m not a crier but I never cried so hard in my life,” Dorrian Glenn, an uncle of Hamlin’s, told reporters Wednesday. “Just to know my nephew basically died on the field and they brought him back to life — that’s just heartbreaking.”

The Bills held a walk-through practice Wednesday and planned to practice again Thursday in preparation for a game Sunday against the New England Patriots.

On Wednesday, the league had still not made a decision about whether to finish the game, which was suspended roughly nine minutes into the first quarter. Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said that it would not be resumed this week and that “everything is being considered.” The matchup had significant playoff implications in the AFC, and with the final week of regular-season games starting Saturday, the NFL faces significant competitive questions as it hopes for Hamlin to recover.

Still, both the Bills and the Bengals appeared Wednesday to be preparing to play their originally scheduled games. The Bills, who are planning to face the New England Patriots on Sunday, had a walk-through, a practice format in which teams typically go over plays without pads in a relaxed fashion. The session was closed to the news media. The Bengals said on Twitter that they planned to play the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon.

Hamlin, who was selected in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft, became a starter this season when All-Pro safety Micah Hyde sustained a neck injury. Across 15 games and 13 starts, Hamlin had 63 individual tackles — second on the team.

With Hamlin still hospitalized, the Bills signed safety Jared Mayden from the New York Jets’ practice squad and released cornerback Xavier Rhodes, announcing the move on social media Wednesday. The transaction was another reminder of the merciless next-man-up culture in America’s most popular sport, where teams must quickly move on and replace players who may have life-altering injuries.

Buffalo, Cincinnati and Kansas City are all in a race for the AFC’s No. 1 seed, a position that carries home-field advantage throughout the playoffs until the Super Bowl.

Anything but deeming the game a tie would require the league to adjust the final week of the season and playoffs, or make these teams play a game on short rest, which creates a higher risk of injury.

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