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Bills’ Damar Hamlin has little more to prove in completing comeback: coach

Sean McDermott says safety has showed no signs of hesitation in his recovery from near-death
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) tackles Indianapolis Colts running back Evan Hull (26) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Orchard Park, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Damar Hamlin has little more to prove to Bills coach Sean McDermott in the third-year safety’s bid to resume his football career after a near-death experience during a game at Cincinnati in January.

“From my non-medical standpoint, I think he’s checked all the boxes as far as that goes,” McDermott said on Thursday. “There’s just been enough of a sample where you’re saying, he’s executed well and come out of that healthy.”

McDermott based his assessment on how Hamlin has showed no signs of hesitation in passing each milestone of his recovery, and especially since the Bills began practicing with pads three weeks ago. Adding to that, the coach was further reassured by Hamlin’s performance in Buffalo’s preseason-opening win over Indianapolis last weekend.

Hamlin was in on three tackles — including stopping Evan Hull for no gain on fourth-and-1 — in playing 22 defensive snaps in his first competitive setting since going into cardiac arrest and being resuscitated on the field after making what appeared to be a routine tackle against the Bengals on Jan. 2. Hamlin’s heart stopped as a result of commotio cordis, which is when a direct blow at a specific point in a heartbeat causes cardiac arrest.

Following the Colts game, McDermott called Hamlin’s performance “a remarkable display of courage and strength and faith,” while adding: “What we just witnessed, to me, is remarkable.”

McDermott’s backing of Hamlin represents the latest signal the player is on track to make the Bills roster and re-secure his backup spot behind starters Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.

The Bills have two more preseason games left, starting with a notable one for Hamlin on Saturday, when Buffalo travels to the player’s hometown of Pittsburgh. The 25-year-old Hamlin grew up in the city’s exurb of McKees Rocks and then spent his college career at Pitt before being drafted by Buffalo in 2021.

Hamlin was already looking forward to the game against the Steelers by noting he will have many family members and friends in attendance.

The Bills close their preseason at Chicago on Aug. 26 before being required to make their final cuts three days later.

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