Damar Hamlin: Buffalo Bills safety thanks fans in first public comments since injury

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, in his first extended public comments since suffering a life-threatening injury nearly four weeks ago in a Monday night game, thanked fans and said he was “blown away” by the outpouring of support.

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Hamlin, 24, released a six-minute video on his Instagram account on Saturday, a week after the Bills were eliminated from the AFC playoffs by the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin went into cardiac arrest in the Week 17 NFL game on Jan. 2 against the Bengals and was hospitalized in Cincinnati and later Buffalo before being released. He attended last weekend’s playoff game in Orchard Park, New York.

“Now that my brothers have closed out a strong winning season, as I continue to make so much progress recovering, I think it’s finally a good time to share a few things,” Hamlin said in a video that he captioned “from the heart.”

“I think it was important for me to wait and speak publicly at the right time, as it was just a lot to process within my own self, mentally, physically, even spiritually,” Hamlin added “It’s just been a lot to process, but I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of all the love, all the support and everything that’s just been coming in my way.”

Hamlin has posted messages and photographs on social media while he was recovering from his injury, but Saturday’s video was the first time he directly addressed fans and well-wishers, The Buffalo News reported.

Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation has raised more than $9 million since he was hospitalized, ESPN reported. The money, raised in a GoFundMe campaign, had an initial goal of $2,500.

“That was something that was started even way before I made it to the NFL, something that was started small just to be able to affect my small community back at home, McKees Rocks (Pennsylvania),” Hamlin said. “I just wanted to be able to play my role and do my part in my community as I ventured off and to chase my dreams of making the NFL, and you guys have just took that and blown it away, and I’m so excited for the things that I have planned in the future for these kids all across the country now.”

In Saturday’s video, Hamlin also thanked the people who helped him “get back to this moment.” He praised the Bills’ medical and athletic training personnel, naming the 14 staff members who were recognized on the field before the Bills’ final regular-season game, the News reported.

Hamlin also thanked the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the first responders who “acted swiftly and skillfully to save (his) life,” and the medical personnel and health care providers who have helped him since, including staff members at Buffalo General Medical Center.

Directing thanks to fans, Hamlin also singled out the children who sent him letters and gifts.

“It’s always been important for me to be a role model, but just seeing the love and the support from the youth, it just makes me want to give back and get out in the communities and touch the kids and just be that example that they can look to, touch, feel, talk to and know that whatever they dream of, it’s real,” Hamlin said. “It can happen if you stay focused, stay dedicated, stay committed to whatever you got going on, you know, because that’s pretty much what got me here.”

Until last weekend’s playoff game, Hamlin, a second-year player out of the University of Pittsburgh, has not been seen in public since the Bills and Bengals last met on Jan. 2 in a Monday night game during Week 17 that was halted in the first quarter, The Associated Press reported. The game was eventually canceled after Hamlin collapsed on the field, went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field.

Hamlin tackled Cincinnati’s Tee Higgins with 5:58 left in the first quarter of that game. He stood up but immediately collapsed to the turf. The Bills said that Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field.

Hamlin visited his teammates on Jan. 14 and watched the Bills’ victory against the Miami Dolphins the following day from his home.

He had been at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for nearly a week before flying to Buffalo to spend two days at Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute, ESPN reported. He was discharged on Jan. 11.

Hamlin ended the video by forming a heart with his hands, according to ESPN.

“I will continue to do wonderful and great things,” Hamlin said. “I couldn’t do this without any of the support and the love, and I can’t wait to continue to take y’all on this journey with me.”

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