ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Damar Hamlin made his regular season debut for the Bills on Sunday at Highmark Stadium, nine months after suffering cardiac arrest on the field.

Hamlin, who started on the kickoff coverage and return units against the Miami Dolphins, played in all three of Buffalo’s preseason games but was a healthy scratch in each of the first three regular season weeks.

“It felt amazing,” Hamlin said after the game. “The energy from the fans was amazing. Just being able to be out there with my teammates, have my family in the stands … Everybody on the team just gives me confidence.”

A game day lineup spot opened for Hamlin when safety Jordan Poyer was ruled out with a knee injury. Taylor Rapp started in Poyer’s place on defense, while Hamlin was listed behind Rapp and Cam Lewis at safety on Buffalo’s depth chart.

Hamlin played 18 snaps in Buffalo’s 48-20 win, all coming on special teams. He did not log any stats.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Along with Poyer, the Bills inactive players on Sunday were: offensive linemen Germain Ifedi and Alec Anderson, defensive tackle Poona Ford, and cornerback Kaiir Elam, the Bills’ first-round draft pick last year who has not been active on game day yet this season.

Appearing in a regular-season game marks the final step in Hamlin’s bid to resume his career following the 25-year-old’s remarkable recovery after going into cardiac arrest and needing to be resuscitated on the field during a game at Cincinnati on Jan. 2.

Since being cleared to resume playing in April, Hamlin has showed no signs of tentativeness in passing every on-field test he’s faced in making the Bills 53-player roster in August. He combined for nine tackles in appearing in all three of Buffalo’s preseason games in August.

Hamlin was starting in place of Hyde when he went into cardiac arrest after making what appeared to be a routine tackle in the first quarter against the Bengals.

His heart stopped as a result of commotio cordis, which happens when a direct blow at a specific point in a heartbeat causes cardiac arrest. Doctors have assured Hamlin he can resume playing without any fear of setbacks or reoccurrence.


Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.