As the Buffalo Bills prepare to play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in the AFC playoffs divisional round, Bills head coach Sean McDermott has told reporters that safety Damar Hamlin is at the team facility almost daily.
“It’s limited, just overall, but he comes in and – it really just started really today or yesterday – just trying to get back to a little bit of a routine, just getting himself acclimated again, taking it one baby step at a time,” said McDermott on 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 cardiac arrest and fell to the ground in front of a shocked stadium following a tackle.
That night, players were in tears as they watched a medical team resuscitate the 24-year-old before an ambulance carried him off the field in critical condition.
The remainder of the Bills-Bengals game was canceled as Hamlin remained hospitalized and NFL teams and fans across the league paid tribute to the football player with T-shirts, signs, jersey patches and on-field prayers.
McDermott said Hamlin isn’t attending team meetings at this stage, but that the 24-year-old is “dipping his toe back in here and getting on the road to just getting back to himself.”
Hamlin’s return to the team has been a welcome presence says offensive lineman Dion Dawkins.
“His appearance, like walking around here, it’s a positive thing and to see three [Hamlin wears the No. 3 on his jersey] just smile and just wave and just put his hearts up and keep it pushing. It’s a positive energy bubble that’s just floating around the facility,” said Dawkins.
Quarterback Josh Allen agreed that Hamlin’s presence has been able to ease the emotional strain on the players.
“With guys being able to see a little bit of Damar and I know coach said he’s been in the building, guys being able to see him and talk with him. I think that kind of alleviates most of that,” said Allen.
Since Hamlin’s injury, the Bills went on to finish second in the AFC behind the Kansas City Chiefs before narrowly beating the Miami Dolphins 34-31 in the Wild Card playoff round, setting themselves up for a rematch with the Bengals in the divisional playoff.
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, that’s always in the back of everybody’s minds, but now it’s win or go home. I think that’s what everybody’s mostly focused on.”
The Bills-Bengals game’s kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday.