ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Bills players and coach Sean McDermott expressed heartfelt emotions about Damar Hamlin on Thursday when speaking publicly for the first time since their teammate collapsed and went into cardiac arrest during Monday night’s football game in Cincinnati.
The Bills were encouraged by uplifting news on Hamlin’s health earlier on Thursday. You can watch video of the press conference featuring McDermott, quarterback Josh Allen, center Mitch Morse, and defensive back Dane Jackson.
“This press conference is about Damar Hamlin whom we love,” McDermott said. “It’s about his parents, Mario and Nina and their extended family. We continue to pray for them during this time and Damar is and remains our No. 1 concern.”
Allen and McDermott both got choked up with emotion while sharing their feelings.
“Being on that field,” Allen said before an extended pause. “You lose sleep. You’re hurt for your brother. A lot of shared grief.”
Allen said that hearing positive updates on Thursday, “eases so much of that pain and that tension that you feel.”
“We heard that news this morning and there’s nothing that could have been told to us to bring our day down,” Allen added. “We’re extremely happy for him and his family. You know, we just want to love up on him. The next chance we get, I don’t know when it’s going to be, hopefully if we get to see him anytime soon, it’s going to be awesome.”
The sentiment was shared by many around the country, including President Joe Biden, who said in a tweet: “Great news. Damar, like I told your mom and dad yesterday, Jill and I – along with all of America – are praying for you and your family.”
Hamlin’s closest teammate
“It’s a huge relief,” said Jackson, a childhood friend and college teammate of Hamlin’s at Pitt. “I think the worst part about everything is the unknown, like us not knowing his status or anything like that.”
“But just as a player, as that being our brother and him being so close, you’re just wondering is he going to be all right in the end,” Jackson continued. “So once we got updates and once we got feedback, it just started to make us feel a little better.”
Jackson recalled Hamlin’s words of encouragement when he was being loaded into an ambulance with a neck injury during a Monday night Bills game earlier this season.
“Him saying, ‘I love you, D-Jack,’ I just remember that distinct voice,” Jackson said. “The whole team was saying it. But I just remember that distinct voice in my head, and that replayed with me on the whole way to the hospital. So just the bond that we have. … I look at pictures today and I see him standing right there, literally hovering over me as I’m getting carted off. So that goes to show you the type of bond me and him have and how we’re always there for each other.”
Jackson was not surprised to learn that Hamlin asked doctors if the Bills won the game shortly after he awakened and was able to communicate in writing.
“I really wouldn’t expect him to say anything else, honestly,” Jackson said. “I just know what type of person he is. He’s a true warrior. He’s a fighter. He’s always going to come out with some type of joke or whatever. It doesn’t matter how severe the situation is. He always has a joke. Or I know the first thing he’ll say to me when he’ll get back is something crazy. I just know it. I can’t wait for it, honestly. That’s what I’m really waiting for. But that’s just the type of person he is, man. He always wants to win. He’s a true fighter. And he’s a winner.”
Allen praised McDermott’s leadership during the harrowing hour after Hamlin collapsed on the field.
“The way he handled it, he was the perfect man in that situation to handle that.” Allen said. “That type of situation. I can’t say enough about what he did, what he said to us in the locker room. Obviously, just a dire circumstance that nobody’s expecting. Nobody’s ready for, there’s nothing that you can train about. You can never put yourself in that situation until it happens.”
Morse described the scene in the Bills locker room Monday night, when players were discussing whether to go back on the field, and McDermott deferred that decision to them.
“There was no way in hell that we were ready to go out there and play a game,” Morse said. “To play this game, as you know, where you have to be mentally to be on the field, not only for yourself and your well-being, but for others around you, it just would’ve done a disservice for everyone. And there was just no chance. So we’re very thankful for that opportunity, and to kind of collectively come together and do that.”
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.