Weeks After a Near-Tragedy, the Bills and Bengals Meet Again

Three weeks after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during a game in Cincinnati, the Bills and Bengals meet again today in the divisional round of the N.F.L. playoffs, at 3 p.m. in Orchard Park, N.Y.

The last time the two teams were on the field together, on Jan. 2, Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after making what appeared to be a routine tackle of receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin stood up after the play but then collapsed to the turf. Medical personnel administered CPR and restarted Hamlin’s heart before taking him off the field in an ambulance, as players and coaches looked on in anguish.

Since then, Hamlin, 24, has made steady progress. He was released from a hospital in Buffalo on Jan. 11 and visited the Bills for the first time last weekend in advance of their wild-card playoff game against the Miami Dolphins. Coach Sean McDermott said last week that Hamlin had been at the team facility “almost daily.”

“That experience, we’ll carry that with us,” McDermott said at a news conference. “There’s a challenge to that, but there’s also a lot of good that came from that. And I think right now we need to focus on the positive, and the positives that came out of that, as opposed to the other piece of it.”

The regular-season game between the Bills and Bengals was suspended after Hamlin’s collapse, which occurred at the 5:58 mark of the first quarter. The N.F.L. canceled the game three days later.

Damar Hamlin’s Collapse

The Buffalo Bills safety went into cardiac arrest during an N.F.L. game in Cincinnati on Jan. 2. He was released from the hospital on Jan. 11.

  • Injury and Reaction: The life-threatening injury to Damar Hamlin, which was televised on “Monday Night Football,” resonated around the league and the world of sports.
  • His Recovery: Hamlin, who returned home nine days after his collapse, appears to be on a good path for neurological recovery, though doctors said it was too early to know how far he is from returning to normal life.
  • In His Hometown: As the news about Hamlin became more hopeful, anguish turned to “happy tears” in the tight-knit Pennsylvania borough where he grew up.
  • Emergency Response: When Hamlin’s heart stopped, medical personnel could be heard making clear the severity of his condition and the efforts to keep him alive. Listen to the audio.

Bills players said being around Hamlin and seeing his progress has buoyed them, helping them push forward during what they hope is a long postseason run. On the line on Sunday is a trip to the A.F.C. championship game.

“With guys being able to see a little bit of Damar, guys being able to see him and talk with him, that alleviates most of” the lingering emotions, Bills quarterback Josh Allen said last week.

Hamlin’s activities at the team facility have still been limited. McDermott said earlier last week that he was not yet taking part in team meetings and was taking it “one baby step at a time” as he tried to return to daily life after his medical emergency.

Hamlin’s marketing representative, Jordon Rooney, told The Associated Press on Thursday night that Hamlin still faces a lengthy rehabilitation. After his collapse, Hamlin spent nearly a week in the intensive care unit at a Cincinnati hospital, where he was intubated for about three days. Hamlin’s neurological function is intact and he is able to walk and talk, but the doctors who cared for him in Cincinnati said recovery from a life-threatening event like the one Hamlin endured can takes weeks or months.

“Damar still requires oxygen and is having his heart monitored regularly to ensure there are no setbacks or after effects,” Rooney said in a statement. “Though he is able to visit the team’s facility, Damar is not in position to travel often, and requires additional rest to help his body heal.”

Hamlin watched the Bills’ 34-31 win against the Dolphins at home with his parents, Nina and Mario, and his younger brother, Damir.

Bills safety Jordan Poyer said in a news conference last week that the biggest emotional hurdle for Hamlin’s teammates to clear was playing the New England Patriots six days after Hamlin’s collapse, in their final game of the regular season.

“But ‘D Ham’ is back in the building now,” Poyer said, referring to Hamlin by a nickname. “It’s awesome to see his face, awesome to see him smiling again, so I don’t think this game will be any different.”

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