By Emmanuel Morgan
Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills safety whose heart stopped during a prime time game in January, has been cleared to return to football activities, Bills general manager Brandon Beane announced Tuesday.
Beane said that three specialists on Friday unanimously cleared Hamlin to resume practicing and that he was in the team’s facility this week for the start of the Bills’ offseason training program.
“My heart is still in the game,” Hamlin said in a news conference on Tuesday. “I love the game. It’s something I want to prove to myself — not nobody else.”
Hamlin, 25, received lifesaving care after undergoing cardiac arrest on the field in the first quarter of the Bills’ game against the Bengals in Cincinnati on Jan. 2. He collapsed after attempting a routine tackle on receiver Tee Higgins, who lowered his head into Hamlin’s chest. After the tackle, Hamlin rose and took two steps before falling to the ground.
Medical professionals administered CPR to Hamlin and attended to him for 10 minutes as players from both teams became visibly upset, some shedding tears on the sideline and others circling together and kneeling in prayer. Hamlin was revived on the field and then rushed to a Cincinnati hospital, where he spent nearly a week in an intensive care unit. He was later transported to a hospital in Buffalo to continue his recovery.
In the days after the collapse, Hamlin received an outpouring of support, with more than 200,000 people donating more than $9 million to a toy drive Hamlin had previously established on a GoFundMe page. A representative for Hamlin has said the money will go to Hamlin’s charitable foundation.
Hamlin’s agent, Ira Turner, in a brief interview Tuesday said that Hamlin did not need to sign a special waiver or complete any additional contractual steps to return to play. The Bills placed Hamlin on the injured reserve list while he rehabbed. Turner said Hamlin has continued to work out and is in “great” shape.
“He’s ready, he’s excited,” Turner said. “I’m sure there are nerves there as with anything but he’s ready to go.”
Since being released from the hospital in January, Hamlin has made a number of high profile public appearances. He helped to honor Bills training and medical staff as well as the hospital employees who treated him during a pregame ceremony at the Super Bowl in February. Days before the championship game, Hamlin gave an emotional speech after accepting the Community Award during the NFL Honors ceremony.
“I have a long road ahead, a journey full of unknowns and a journey full of milestones, but it’s a lot easier to face your fears when you know your purpose,” he said.
In March, Hamlin met with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office and spoke before Congress in support of a bill that, if passed, would fund access to automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, in schools.