Damar Hamlin is the ‘good energy bubble’ at the Bills center

As the Buffalo Bills prepare to play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in the AFC playoffs, Bills head coach Sean McDermott has told reporters that safety Damar Hamlin is at the team’s facility almost every day.

“It’s limited, just in general, but he’s coming in and — it actually started today or yesterday — just trying to get back into a little bit of a routine, just kind of re-adapting, taking one baby step at a time. Time,” McDermott said Wednesday as he spoke about Hamlin.

Sunday’s Bills-Bengals reunion will come 20 days after Hamlin, a defensive player in his second NFL season, suffered a heart attack and fell to the ground in front of the stadium in shock after a tackle.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) reacts as Damar Hamlin examines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Monday, January 2, 2023, in Cincinnati.

That night, players wept as they watched medical teams revive the 24-year-old before an ambulance took him off the field in a critical condition.

The rest of the Bills-Bengals game was canceled while Hamlin remained hospitalized and NFL teams and fans across the league paid tribute to the football player with T-shirts, signs, jersey patches and prayers on the field.

Hamlin was released last week after a statewide hospital stay that involved him being sedated and put on a ventilator.

McDermott said Hamlin had not attended a team meeting at this stage, but the 24-year-old had “put his thumb back in here and hit the road to get back to himself.”

Hamlin’s return to the team has been a welcome one, offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said.

“The show, like walking in here, it’s a positive thing and seeing the three [Hamlin wearing No. 3 on his jersey] just smiling and just waving and just holding their hearts out and keep pushing. It’s a bubble of positive energy. just floating around facility,” Dawkins said.

A mural by artist Adam Zyglis of Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin, who is recovering from a heart attack during a Jan. 2 game, covers the exterior of a building in Buffalo, N.Y., Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

Quarterback Josh Allen agreed that the presence of Hamlin has been able to ease the emotional strain on the players.

“With the guys being able to see a little bit of Damar and I know the coach said he is already in the building, the guys can see him and talk to him. I think that kind of alleviates most of that,” said Allen.

Due to Hamlin’s injury, the Bills went on to finish second in the AFC behind the Kansas City Chiefs before narrowly defeating the Miami Dolphins 34-31 in the Wild Card playoffs, setting themselves up for a rematch with the Bengals in the divisional playoffs.

When Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow was asked about facing the Bills again he said, “It’s just another game, another playoff game.”

“Obviously what happened, it’s always on everybody’s mind, but now it’s win or go home. I think that’s what everybody’s focused on the most.”

Kickoff for the Bills-Bengals game is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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