By Jack Phillips
A teammate of Damar Hamlin said Thursday that the Buffalo Bills safety is awake, while his agent revealed he is holding hands with his family in a Cincinnati hospital—after he collapsed on the field during Monday night’s game against the Bengals.
Agent Rob Butler told CNN that Hamlin’s condition improved and he’s holding hands with his family members, while the organization that represents Hamlin, Agency 1 Sports, wrote on Twitter that his condition improved overnight.
“Damar has made substantial improvement overnight,” Agency 1 Sports wrote on Twitter Thursday. “We are so thankful for all the first responders, doctors, and hospital staff and every one who played a role in this process.”
Before the team’s update on Thursday, teammate and cornerback Kaiir Elam wrote on Twitter that his condition was improving.
“Our boy is doing better, awake, and showing more signs of improvement. Thank you God. Keep the prayers coming please. All love 3!” he wrote.
The Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, issued a similar statement Thursday but stressed he’s in critical condition. The team statement did not say whether he was conscious or holding hands.
“While still critically ill, he has demonstrated that he appears to be neurologically intact,” the Bills wrote on Twitter. “His lungs continue to heal and he is making steady progress.”
Earlier this week, team said Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field during Monday night’s game. After he collapsed following a tackle on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, medical staff at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati performed CPR on him and used a portable defibrillator to restart his heart rhythm before he was taken via ambulance to the hospital.
About an hour later, the NFL suspended the game between the two teams in a contest that has significant American Football Conference playoff implications. A day later, the NFL said that the game was postponed and will not be played this week, and the league hasn’t indicated the game would be picked up from where it left off.
During the tackle, Higgins led with his shoulder and struck Hamlin in the chest. The safety got back to his feet but then adjusted his helmet and collapsed back on the field, triggering the medical response.
The Bills are reportedly scheduled to practice this week, and the organization is scheduled to play the New England Patriots on Sunday, the final weekend of the NFL regular season before the playoffs start. Buffalo and Cincinnati are among the top teams in their conference and have already locked up playoff spots.
‘He’s a Fighter’
Hamlin’s uncle, Dorrian Glenn, told NFL Network on Tuesday that his nephew is “going to truly be floored” by the support. “He’s going to be floored, he’s going to be in disbelief, but I mean, he’s shown so much love, he’s shown so much care and compassion, so, it should reciprocate back to him cause he’s a genuine guy, a positive guy,” he said.
On Wednesday, Bengals coach Zac Taylor revealed what Bills coach Sean McDermott told him on Monday night after Hamlin’s collapse.
“When I got over there, the first thing (Sean McDermott) said is I need to be at the hospital with Damar. I shouldn’t be coaching this game. That to me provides all the clarity,” Taylor said in a news conference. “In that moment he really showed who he was. All his focus was just on Damar, being there for him, being there for his family at the hospital. At that point everything trended where it needed to trend. The right decisions were made there.”
After returning home early Tuesday once the game was suspended, the Bills held meetings and a walkthrough practice without any media availability on Wednesday. On Thursday, players were spotted arriving at the facility, though the team has not yet released a practice schedule.
The chilling sight of Hamlin collapsing, which was broadcast to a North American TV audience on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” has led to an outpouring of support from fans and players from across the league. Numerous players—former teammates and those who didn’t know Hamlin until Monday—voiced their support, while saying they were shaken by what happened.
Colts safety Rodney Thomas made the two-hour drive from Indianapolis to Cincinnati on Tuesday just to be by the side of his former high school teammate. “He’s a fighter. I know he’s a fighter and there’s no other thought in my mind other than him walking out under his own power,” Thomas said Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.