New York Daily News: By Pat Leonard – Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has been “cleared” physically by specialists to make his NFL return and is already “working out” with the team, GM Brandon Beane said Tuesday morning.
“Damar is prepared to come back and play,” Beane told reporters at his pre-draft press conference. “He’s fully cleared, he’s here, and he is of the mindset, he’s in a great headspace to come back and make his return.”
Hamlin, 25, called his near-death experience on Jan. 2 “life-changing” but said, “it’s not the end of my story.”
“I’m here to announce that I plan on making a comeback to the NFL,” Hamlin said at his own press conference. “My heart is still in it. My heart is still in the game. I love the game. It’s something I want to prove to myself, not [any]body else.
“I just want to show people that fear is a choice,” Hamlin added. “You can keep going in something without having the answers and without knowing what’s at the end of the tunnel.”
Hamlin said the specialists who cleared him unanimously concluded that the condition of “commotio cordis” sent him into cardiac arrest on Jan. 2 during a game between the Bills and Bengals that was ultimately cancelled.
A direct blow at a specific point in his heartbeat caused Hamlin to “fall out” approximately five to seven seconds later. Bills trainers and Cincinnati doctors saved his life.
“I died on national TV in front of the whole world,” Hamlin said Tuesday.
Hamlin said he is “thankful and blessed” for all of the people who have supported him.
Beane was at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center with Hamlin and his family when the worst was still a possibility. He marveled at the progress Hamlin has made since then.
“Such a great kid, such a great family,” Beane said. “It’s exciting to go from a guy who was fighting for his life to who is now, his story hasn’t been written. Now it’s about the comeback.
“It was all about his health, and it’s always gonna be about his health,” Beane added. “But to be talking about however many months later that he’s fully cleared is pretty remarkable. And I’m excited for him and his family, where they are [on] this journey.”
Hamlin gave a glimpse of this possibility in a recent visit to the White House when President Joe Biden asked him if he would be able to play football again.
“Yeah, I think so,” Hamlin told Biden in the Oval Office. “God willing.”
Hamlin then received clearances from several specialists to confirm his optimism.
“When he left Cincinnati, came here and was at Buffalo General, he saw a couple of specialists here in Buffalo,” Beane said, describing the road back. “And since then, he’s seen three additional specialists, most recently on Friday.
“And they’re all in agreement,” Beane continued. “It’s not two to one, or three to one, or anything like that. They’re all in lock step of what this was and that he is cleared, resumed full activities, just like anyone else who was coming back from an injury or whatever.”
Beane said head athletic trainer Nate Breske went with Hamlin on all of his trips and specialist visits to make sure the Bills were hearing all of the specialists’ diagnoses firsthand, and all findings were communicated to the team’s medical doctors.
But he said the Bills ultimately were “following [the specialists’] lead,” rather than having their medical staff in position to overrule them, because of Hamlin’s specialized case.
“This is something, it’s new,” Beane said. “It’s not something we’re used to.”
So Hamlin is cleared and working out in a remarkable turnaround from that horrifying night in January. And Beane promised he’ll receive support for the mental challenges, not just the physical work.
“Any time you’re coming back from any injury, much less something that is life-threatening, that’s always an ongoing type thing,” Beane said. “And we’ll put all the resources he needs for that [in place].”
Hamlin admitted he felt some “anxiousness” rejoining his teammates in workouts but said he and the doctors agreed it would actually be better for him mentally to come back, not just physically.
He said the best part of his story is that he and his family get to continue their journey together.
“They almost lost me,” he said. “And for them to still have me around and for me to still have them… that right there is the biggest blessing of it all: for me to still have my people and for my people to still have me.”
In the community, Hamlin said he “personally will be taking a step to make a change” and raise awareness about “commotio cordis,” which is “the leading cause of death in youth athletes across all sports.”
As for those who think he’s making the wrong decision by returning to football, Hamlin said those folks are welcome to their viewpoint.
“Some people might say that coming back to play might not be the best option,” Hamlin said. “But that’s their opinion, and I’ve been beating statistics my whole life, so I like my chances here.”
Top Feature Photo: Damar Hamlin is looking to make a return to the field – Greg M Cooper/AP