NFL honors Damar Hamlin in final week of regular season

By Matt Meyer, Mike Hayes and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 0203 GMT (1003 HKT) January 9, 2023
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9:02 p.m. ET, January 8, 2023

We've wrapped up our live coverage for the day. You can read more about Hamlin here.

8:28 p.m. ET, January 8, 2023

Sunday Night Football is underway

The final game of today's NFL slate, which featured tributes to Damar Hamlin throughout, is underway with Sunday Night Football.

The Green Bay Packers play the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field in Wisconsin.

If the Packers win, they'll head to the NFL playoffs.

Because of an earlier win by the Seattle Seahawks, the Lions cannot make the playoffs regardless of outcome.

7:34 p.m. ET, January 8, 2023

Hamlin is expecting to be released from the hospital in the coming days, source tells CNN

From CNN’s Coy Wire

Damar Hamlin has shown continued progress with his recovery and expects to be released from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in the coming days, a source tells CNN’s Coy Wire.

Once Hamlin is discharged from the hospital, he will immediately return to Buffalo, New York.

7:25 p.m. ET, January 8, 2023

Damar Hamlin’s fundraiser tops $8.5 million in donations

From CNN's Chuck Johnston

Shortly after the Buffalo Bills defeated the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon, a fundraiser started by Bills safety Damar Hamlin topped $8.5 million in donations.

Hamlin started the fundraiser in 2020 to raise money to purchase toys for children, writing at the time: “As I embark on my journey to the NFL, I will never forget where I come from and I am committed to using my platform to positively impact the community that raised me. I created The Chasing M’s Foundation as a vehicle that will allow me to deliver that impact.” 

During the Bills game on Sunday afternoon, more than $32,000 was raised to support the toy drive.

Organizers thanked those who donated for their generosity and compassion.

“As representatives of Damar, the team at Jaster Athletes posted the fundraiser updates and will work with the Hamlin family, The Chasing M's Foundation, and the GoFundMe team to ensure the safe delivery of funds,” the group posted on the GoFundMe fundraiser.

7:39 p.m. ET, January 8, 2023

Bills represent Buffalo's resilience after a bruising year, mayor tells CNN

Mayor Byron Brown speaks during an interview on January 8.
Mayor Byron Brown speaks during an interview on January 8. (CNN)

Damar Hamlin’s recovery is a needed triumph for the city of Buffalo, which is overcoming a challenging year with a mass shooting and deadly snowstorm, Mayor Byron Brown told CNN’s Jim Acosta.

“It’s a very challenging year for the city of Buffalo, a lot of tragedy in our city,” Brown said. “We thought it was going to be more tragedy heaped on our city."

Brown said Hamlin’s recovery is lifting the collective spirits of the community, bolstered further by his team's victory Sunday.

“Damar’s spirit itself, how he has handled this adversity, how positive he has been and his recovery that seems almost miraculous from where he was, it is just tremendous,” Brown said. “It’s a source of inspiration not only for the Buffalo community, but I think for the entire nation.” 

Brown said the team is inspired by Hamlin as well, noting the record-breaking touchdown which started the game. 

“We absolutely love the Bills in Buffalo and Western New York. They really represent the Buffalo spirit,” Brown said. “They’re tough, they’re hard-nosed. They never give up. Sometimes they’re down, sometimes they’re up, they’re never out of it.” 

“And that is like Buffalo,” Brown said. “That’s the Buffalo story." 

5:35 p.m. ET, January 8, 2023

Bills quarterback Josh Allen tears up while reflecting on dramatic opening touchdown

From CNN's David Close

Josh Allen walks off the field after defeating the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Josh Allen walks off the field after defeating the New England Patriots on Sunday. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)

When asked where the Nyheim Hines’ opening kickoff touchdown ranks in Josh Allen’s football memories, the Bills quarterback said: “I can’t remember a play that touched me like that, I don’t think, in my life. So, it's probably number one."

“I was just told,” Allen continued, with tears welling in his eyes, “it’s been three years and three months since the last (Bills) kickoff return. Pretty cool.”

Allen's hospitalized teammate Damar Hamlin, who the NFL world rallied around this week, wears No. 3. 

Hines’ opening kickoff return for a 96-yard touchdown was also the team's first to open a game in 18 years. He told reporters after the game that the play "was way bigger than me."

"I'm speechless," Hines said. "I'm so thankful it was me to bring that juice, but it was way bigger than me, and that's what I always thought about. And that was what I felt all day. That it was bigger than me, bigger than those 10 guys who did a great job blocking for me." 

Another powerful moment from the game: Bills wide receiver John Brown gave Bills assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington a game ball after his touchdown reception in the third quarter.

Brown caught a 42-yard pass from Josh Allen, putting the Bills ahead 28-17. The receiver found Kellington on the sideline and gave the ball to him.

Just seconds after Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field from cardiac arrest on Monday, medical personnel swarmed to his aid. The quick response has been widely credited for the player’s steps toward recovery.

Kellington has been praised by Bills head coach Sean McDermott for “saving Damar’s life.” He was the trainer who gave Hamlin CPR.

4:30 p.m. ET, January 8, 2023

"We all won," Hamlin tweets after Bills victory, announcing new fundraiser for first responders

From CNN's Adrienne Broaddus in Cincinnati

Damar Hamlin announced on Twitter that he is selling shirts with the message, "Did we win?" — a reference to one of the first questions he scribbled to doctors and family members when he awoke at the hospital.

"We all won," Hamlin tweeted Sunday, moments after the Bills victory became official. "I want to give back an ounce of the love y'all showed me. Proceeds of this shirt will go to first-responders and the UC Trauma Center. "

4:18 p.m. ET, January 8, 2023

The NFL's late window of games is about to begin

After a thrilling opening slate of games Sunday that featured an emotional Buffalo Bills victory and tributes across the league to hospitalized safety Damar Hamlin, the next round of NFL action is about to get started.

Here's what's on tap:

  • Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders (Cowboys clinch NFC #1 seed with win and Eagles loss and 49ers loss or tie)
  • Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (49ers clinch NFC #1 seed with win and Eagles loss)
  • Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (Seahawks could clinch playoffs with win, but would need many other variables to fall their way)
  • New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (Eagles clinch NFC #1 seed with win or tie)
  • Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
4:28 p.m. ET, January 8, 2023

The Bills win in their emotional return to the field

John Brown celebrates with Bills fans after catching a touchdown pass on Sunday.
John Brown celebrates with Bills fans after catching a touchdown pass on Sunday. (Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

Playing in front of a roaring home crowd in Orchard Park, New York, and buoyed by hopeful news about their hospitalized teammate Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills seemed destined for victory Sunday.

They did not disappoint, earning a decisive 35-23 victory in a high-scoring game against the New England Patriots.

The game featured two kickoff return touchdowns from Bills returner Nyheim Hines and thrilled play-by-play reaction on Twitter from Hamlin, who was watching from his hospital bed.

Fans hold signs in support of Damar Hamlin on Sunday.
Fans hold signs in support of Damar Hamlin on Sunday. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)