It has been more than seven months since Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest during an NFL game.
In April, the 25-year-old was cleared to resume football activities, and he was a full participant during the Bills OTAs earlier this offseason.
After going through drills during training camp over the past couple of weeks, Hamlin is ready to take the next major step in his return to football by playing in a preseason game this weekend.
On Thursday, Bills head coach Sean McDermott said the team is taking a “day at a time” approach to Hamlin’s playing status. But he later told The Associated Press Hamlin is “scheduled to play” in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Colts.
McDermott has closely followed each milestone of Hamlin’s recovery and praised the third-year safety’s resilience.
“This is to some extent uncharted territory for me as well, and all of us. So, we’re just trying to do the best we can to be there for him,” McDermott told reporters. “I try to keep a close eye on where he is and where he’s showing up and how he’s responding. And he’s done a great job.
For Hamlin, it’s been a step-by-step process without looking too far ahead.
“Trying to look forward, it just creates a lot of anxiety, a lot of unnecessary feelings,” he said. “If you stay in the moment, it allows you to process it when you’re there.”
It’s an approach that began with Hamlin waking up from a medically induced coma in a Cincinnati hospital bed to being able to breathe on his own and being strong enough to attend the Super Bowl.
Hamlin wasn’t ready to envision what it might be like to play Saturday, saying, “It’s too soon, man.”
Hamlin revealed his doctors concluded his cardiac arrest was caused by commotio cordis. According to the American Heart Association, commotio cordis is caused by “an extremely rare consequence of blunt force trauma to the heart that happens at exactly the wrong time in the heart rhythm, causing the heart to stop beating effectively.”
Many have called Hamlin’s comeback bid courageous. Once the preseason comes to a close, Hamlin will face his next hurdle Aug. 29, the day the Bills make their final cuts to establish their 53-man roster.
Hamlin has displayed no signs of a setback or hesitation during training camp in seeking to secure a backup spot behind returning starters Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.
Hamlin has had some good moments during training camp, the best of which came Aug. 1, when he intercepted an off-target pass from Bills backup quarterback Matt Barkley. He quickly jumped to his feet and ran into the end zone, where he was greeted by teammates Tre’Davious White and Dane Jackson.
Otherwise, he’s been his playful self, whether it’s skipping out to practice while acknowledging the cheering crowd, dancing on the sideline to the music or signing as many autographs as time allows.
Star wide receiver Stefon Diggs takes joy in seeing Hamlin simply being himself again.
“It’s easy to come in and say, `OK, he’s back on the football field.’ But to see him every day living, breathing, laughing and having a good time is really where you have your eye-opening. Like God is good,” Diggs said. “Of course, I’m going to be one of the main people cheering for him. From a human standpoint, I’m just happy the guy is alive.”
Hamlin is eager to return to normalcy.
“Man, sometimes it’s like normal don’t exist,” Hamlin said. “But it’s a super-blessed space. To be able to do what I love again. That’s kind of the normal thing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.