Dammar Hamlin made an early impact getting back on the field in the Bills’ preseason game against the Colts

ORchard Park, New York (AP) — Whatever tensions Dammar Hamlin might have been feeling were gone in the middle of the first quarter on Saturday, when he first heard the call of a play: Blitz.

four snaps in His first game in a competitive environment Since his Jan. 2 near-death experience, Hamlin has stormed the line and held Indianapolis Colts running back Evan Hull for a no-go in the fourth and one out of the Buffalo 40.

“Yeah, man, it felt good. It sure felt like a little weight on my shoulders,” Hamlin said afterwards. Buffalo win the season opener, 23-19. “Amazing. It makes me feel like I’m back in this element.”

What seemed incomprehensible in those frightening initial moments when Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and required resuscitation on the court during a game in Cincinnati in January, is closer to reality in the 25-year-old’s attempt to restart his playing career.

Hamlin showed no signs of hesitation or fear in finishing the game with three tackles—the other two coming on back-to-back snaps—in playing a two-over defensive streak spanning the first and second quarters.

In doing so, he reached the latest and perhaps the biggest comeback event that began with his return to training in May and was followed by his endurance. First jingle in the first Bills lined session From training camp two weeks ago.

“What we just experienced, to me, is amazing,” said coach Sean McDermott. “It’s a real sign of the courage of the young man, and obviously everyone who helped him get to this point. I know there was a football game today, but I mean really great display of courage, strength and faith.”

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Hamlin arrived on the field flashing his familiar heart sign and reaching out with three fingers to indicate his jersey number as he entered the tunnel. Not even a short delay caused by a thunderstorm could dampen his spirits.

Hamlin entered the game on the field as part of Buffalo’s kickoff coverage unit after James Cook’s 8-yard touchdown run for 3 1/2 minutes. And he spent the second half watching along the sideline with his pads while wearing his running shoes.

At the final whistle, Hamlin sought out his mother, Nina, in the stands and offered her his game jersey even though he had initially promised it to former teammate and now Colts receiver Isiah McKenzie.

“That first shirt that came back, it had to go to my mom. Dude, I had to go to her. My mom has been my strength, my everything, you know, my whole life,” Hamlin said. season.”

Mackenzie is fine with having to wait.

It was more important to him to see how far Hamelin had come.

“It was great to see him progress the way he does. There he is on the court now, doing his thing and playing the game he loves to play. It was a great feeling to be out there with him,” McKenzie said. “One time I was on a mound, and he and I started laughing. . It was great to see him smile and have a good time.”

Hamlin’s confidence grew in every step he took, starting with waking up from a medically induced coma in a Cincinnati hospital bed two days after he collapsed, followed by being able to breathe on his own to the last. Play is allowed to resume in April, When he announced his return attempt.

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When asked about his next mentor, Hamlin kept his daily focus by saying, “Practice tomorrow.”

However, the third-year player allowed himself to look forward to traveling to his hometown of Pittsburgh next week for Buffalo’s game against the Steelers.

“I think it’s probably electric there. He said.

After two more preseason games, the next hurdle will come on August 29, when the Bills make final cuts to establish their regular season roster with Hamlin looking to re-secure a backup spot behind returning starters Micah Hyde and Jordan Boyer. .

“It’s kind of like proving it to myself and accepting the challenge of just being able to go through something really hard and just being able to come back and get through that,” Hamlin said in assessing his trip.

“And then just to prove to yourself that there is nothing that can stop you from doing what you want to do and reaching the heights you want to reach,” he added. “It’s going to be a long road, a long journey as far as the goals I score for myself in this game. But today was definitely a step in the right direction.”

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