ORCHARD PARK — Damar Hamlin is back in the Bills team facility on an almost daily basis, Sean McDermott said Wednesday.
McDermott told reporters, starting this week, Hamlin has come back to the building regularly to reacclimatize himself following a cardiac arrest against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2. He was resuscitated on the field, again at the hospital and was intubated for four days.
He has not spoken publicly since the injury, but Hamlin was in the building on Wednesday.
“It's limited, just overall, but he comes in and really just started today or yesterday,” McDermott said. “Just trying to get back to a little bit of a routine and just get himself back acclimated again and take it one step, baby step at a time here.”
Hamlin is not taking part in team meetings and was placed on injured reserve, but his return to the building comes after visiting in-person with teammates for the first time Saturday since his injury.
“Just kind of get himself dipping his toe back in here and getting on the road to just getting back to himself,” McDermott said.
Hamlin was discharged from University of Cincinnati Medical Center on Jan. 9, transferred to Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute and released completely two days later after passing a battery of tests.
The second-year safety previously communicated with Bills teammates through video chat and spoke with the team following a win over the Patriots on Jan. 8.
“I think it brings everybody's spirits up,” Bills safety Jordan Poyer said. “I think, you know, the Patriots game, we kind of dealt with the biggest amount of emotions a week later. But like I said, D-Ham's back in the building now and you know it's awesome to see his face, awesome to see him smiling, so I don't think this game will be any different.”
The Bills and Bengals meet Sunday, less than three weeks after Hamlin’s injury ended the game midway through the first quarter. While it’s the same opponent, the game is in Orchard Park this time and there has been ample time to process the situation.
Since the team has been able to communicate with Hamlin for the first time, they have been much more spirited and the locker room had a sense of normalcy throughout last week. With Hamlin back in the building, quarterback Josh Allen says it takes away some of those emotions of playing the Bengals and the team can focus on football.
“Guys being able to see him, talk with him, I think that kind of alleviates most of that,” Allen said. “Not saying that there's going to be none. I can't speak for everybody on the team. But again, I think we're pretty focused right now on just having a good week of preparation and trying to go out there on Sunday and execute.”
Wearing a red Bills sweatshirt, Gabe Davis walked over to the JUGS machine as Wednesday’s walk-through ended.
Davis regularly spends time after practice catching extra passes, but this time nearly an hour passed before he returned to the locker room. Recently, he’s had more incentive for extra practice time.
The Bills receiver revealed Von Miller brought a replica Super Bowl trophy into the locker room, saying, “You said you’d do anything for it.” If that wasn’t enough, Davis also said his mother, Alana, wrote him a letter before Sunday’s wild-card game — including a picture when he was 9 years old — reminding him where he came from.
Nine was the age Davis told his mother he wanted to quit football. That he didn’t like the contact. Alana told him it would be a mistake and he continued to play, improving and writing her letters over the years that stated his confidence in where he would one day end up.
Davis had six receptions for 113 yards and a 23-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter that ended up being the game-winning score.
“She always wants me to be humble,” Davis said. “Be humble and be the person that I am. And she just always continues to remind me of how blessed we are as a family for me to be in this position.”
Motivations aside, Davis seems to have a penchant for revving his game up a notch during the playoffs. He had four catches for 85 yards against the Colts in his first-ever playoff game in the 2020 wild-card round, and caught five touchdowns in two games last season, including a historic eight-catch, 201-yard, four-touchdown game against the Chiefs in the Divisional round.
“I know everybody wants to make it a deal; he's the same guy,” Allen said. “He really is. And I know this year hasn't been the best year that he could have had, but I mean, you still look at the stats and the numbers that he's put up this year. It was a very, very solid year and I frickin’ love the guy to death. He's one of the most liked guys in the locker room. He works extremely hard.”
Davis had a strong season, catching 48 passes for 836 yards and seven scores, but much was expected following his game against the Chiefs and elevation to the No. 2 spot. There were some big moments, like his 98-yard touchdown catch against the Steelers in Week 5, but an ankle injury early in the year and inconsistency plagued him during the campaign.
Before Sunday, Davis’ last 100-yard game came against the Steelers — his lone such outing of the year — and he had fewer than 50 yards in five of the last six regular-season games, while scoring two touchdowns during that span.
Having Davis as an active member of the offense gives the passing game diversity and allows more advantageous matchups for Stefon Diggs, who also surpassed 100 yards receiving against the Dolphins, marking the first time the two have done so since Pittsburgh.
“I think it helps Stef out a lot when other guys can step up and really make plays around him to alleviate some of that focus as well,” Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said. “So, we definitely are trying to always make sure we're staying balanced on how we're attacking teams and putting our guys in the best possible position to have success.”
BILLS BITS: Every play not on injured reserve participated in Wednesday’s walk-through. Isaiah McKenzie (hamstring) was a full participant, while Dane Jackson (knee), DaQuan Jones (calf) Jordan Phillips (shoulder) and Poyer (knee) were all limited.