Damar Hamlin Makes NFL Comeback, Plays First Competitive Game Since Cardiac Arrest

Damar Hamlin played in the Buffalo Bills' preseason opener Aug. 12 in what marked his first competitive NFL game since he suffered a cardiac arrest during another one seven months prior.

By Corinne Heller Aug 12, 2023 10:13 PMTags
Watch: Damar Hamlin CLEARED to Play Football Following Cardiac Arrest

Damar Hamlin has made a triumphant comeback.

On Aug. 12, the Buffalo Bills safety played in the team's preseason opener, facing off against the Indianapolis Colts. It marked the athlete's first competitive NFL game since he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field while playing against the Cincinnati Bengals on their home turf January.

Hamlin, 25, was credited with three tackles, including a key stop on a fourth down, helping the Bills beat the Colts 23-19 in his team's home game.

"It was fun, it was super fun, it was a great experience, just another milestone and a step up to just getting back to myself as far as the football space," Hamlin said after the game, per NFL.com. "Just chopping this tree down as much as I can, one step at a time."

And the athlete returned to the field with no hesitation. "I made the choice that I wanted to play," he said. "It wasn't anybody else's choice but mine, so making that choice, I know what comes with it."

Buffalo Bills and NFL Honor Damar Hamlin Amid Hospitalization

Hamlin continued, "So when you see my cleats laced up and my helmet and shoulder pads on, I'm going to go with no hesitation. Because you can't play this game like that, you'll put yourself at more risk if you hesitate."

Upon his arrival on the field at Highmark Stadium, the football star was met with cheers from fans and hugs from teammates. A post shared on the Bills' Twitter page read, "It's good to have you back, 3."

Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

It was confirmed in April that doctors had cleared Hamlin to return to playing football.

"My heart is still in the game," Hamlin said at a news conference at the time. "I love the game. It is something I want to prove to myself, not nobody else."

Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

In July, Hamlin appeared at the 2023 ESPYS to present the Bills training staff with the Pat Tillman Award for Service for their swift treatment of him on the Bengals field following his cardiac arrest, before he was rushed to a hospital. He was moved to tears as he embraced them onstage.

"Thanks to their training, their poise, their commitment to serve others, the Bills training staff kept me alive," Hamlin said in a pre-recorded video screened before they stepped out. "I didn't wake up that morning in January thinking that I would need someone to save my life that day, and I doubt that the training staff thought that they would have to do what they did either."

The athlete continued, "That, as much as anything else, is what I've taken away from what happened to me six and a half months ago—that any of us at any given time are capable of doing something as incredible as saving a life and living a life in service to others."

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