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Three tackles in a preseason game might not seem like a big deal to most. But for Damar Hamlin, it is monumental.
That’s because just over seven months ago on January 2, the Buffalo Bills safety was laid out on the football field, surrounded by medical personnel, suffering a cardiac arrest.
Many wondered if he’d ever be the same again — let alone play football.
But on Saturday, during the Bills’ preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts, he played in his first NFL game since the medical emergency.
Hamlin made made three tackles, including a big stop on a fourth down, before exiting the game.
Doctors cleared the 25-year-old to resume football activities in April, and he was a full participant during the Bills’ OTAs this summer.
On July 31, he put on pads for the first time since that terrifying night in Cincinnati. And at the time, he admitted he felt timid.
“I’m not afraid to say it crosses my mind of being a little scared here and there, but my strength is rooted in my faith and my faith is stronger than any fear,” Hamlin said.
“As long as your faith is stronger than your fear, you can get through anything. That’s what I’m living by right now.”
Damar Hamlin Shared Updates Along The Way
Throughout the process, Hamlin has been open about his recovery — often sharing his medical journey with fans on social media.
“I honestly [would have loved] to do this whole process under a rock, get myself together, and pop back out when I feel at my best,” he said. “But I think there’s strength in going through a process in front of everybody’s eyes. It shows vulnerability, strength and perseverance. And those are things I would love to stand for.”
Hamlin revealed it was commotio cordis, a rare condition started by a blow to the chest at the exact wrong time, that led to his cardiac arrest.
Obviously, seeing him suit up for Saturday’s preseason matchup is a positive sign. But as for the extent of his role the rest of the season, he’s taking things one step at a time.
“Trying to look forward, it just creates a lot of anxiety, a lot of unnecessary feelings,” Hamlin said. “If you stay in the moment, it allows you to process it when you’re there.”
The Bills defeated the Colts 23-19 on Saturday. They’ll take the field again Aug. 19 in Pittsburgh.