Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin returned to the team’s stadium for a playoff game in Orchard Park, New York, on Sunday, three weeks after collapsing on the field and nearly dying.
Hamlin, 24, was driven in a casket to the locker room for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals at 3 pm ET. He was wearing sunglasses and a jacket, sold through his Chasing M clothing line, with the hood pulled up. CBS also showed two people arriving at the stadium in the broadcast who were reported to be Hamlin’s mother Nina and his younger brother.
The Bills’ team Twitter account posted a video of their entrance with the message, “Welcome home, @HamlinIsland,” tagging Hamlin’s account.
With two minutes left in the first half, the stadium announcer said Hamlin was in the building and showed it on the big screen, according to CBS. In the video, Hamlin stood up, put his hands together in a heart sign and then held up three fingers on each hand for his jersey number. He also raised his arms and encouraged the crowd to rise and rise loudly.
But it was the Bengals who prevailed in the game, beating Buffalo 27-10 despite Buffalo’s home field advantage and the emotional uplift of having Hamlin in the stadium.
It was Hamlin’s first public appearance since collapsing after a tackle in the first quarter of the Jan. 2 Bills-Bengals game. Doctors and trainers gave Hamlin CPR on the field and he was rushed out of the stadium in an ambulance, leaving players. , coaches, fans and those watching TV in shock and sure if he was alive.
Medical officials said he went into cardiac arrest, meaning his heart stopped beating suddenly. The match was postponed and eventually cancelled.
Since then, Hamlin has made significant progress, and was released from a Buffalo medical center on January 11.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott told reporters Wednesday that Hamlin was at the team facility almost every day.
“It’s limited, just overall, but he comes in and – he’s just really started today or yesterday – trying to get back to a bit of a routine, getting used to it again, taking one baby step at the time,” McDermott said.
However, Hamlin’s longtime friend and business partner Jordon Rooney told CNN that Hamlin still has a “long recovery” ahead of him.
“Damar still needs oxygen and his heart is regularly monitored. He’s visited with the team a few times but it’s still very easy,” said Rooney. “He’s positive and optimistic and ready to continue to overcome this.”