Damar Hamlin: The Buffalo Bills put on a rousing pre-game safety support show
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Buffalo Bills players wear a patch of Damar Hamlin’s number three on the front of their jerseys
The Buffalo Bills showed emotional support for Damar Hamlin in their first NFL game since onfield safety went into cardiac arrest.
After a rousing preparation for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, Bills running back Nyheim Hines returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown to spark wild celebration.
Hamlin, 24, watched from his hospital bed and tweeted, “Free Hines.”
The Bills wear patches of Hamlin’s number three on their shirts.
Their players also came with t-shirts and hats with his picture, name and number, while fans held up banners with messages of support.
The message “Love for Damar 3” was shown on large screens at Bills Highmark Stadium.
Hamlin collapsed during Monday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Bills said on Saturday he was making “continuous progress” but was still in “critical condition.”
“Match day – nothing I want more than to walk through that tunnel with my brothers,” Hamlin tweeted before kick-off.
“God is using me in a different way today. Tell someone you love them today!”
The Bills’ medical staff who helped resuscitate Hamlin on the field were thanked and cheered.
Before the US national anthem was sung, there was thunderous applause for Hamlin, many Bills players and coach Sean McDermott were visibly touched.
McDermott was in tears after Hines returned the ball 96 yards for a stunning first touchdown while star quarterback Josh Allen put his hands on his helmet in disbelief.
Before leading his team onto the field, Allen tapped the number three patch on his jersey and told his teammates, “They always say don’t play for the name on the back, you play for the name on the front.
“It’s something very special that we’re also playing for this number up front.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attended the game wearing a blue cap with the number three on it.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said Damar Hamlin’s advances have inspired the entire NFL
The “3” at the 30-yard mark has been given a blue outline because it’s one of the Bills’ team colors.
All of the final games of the regular season on Sunday featured similar displays of support, with the number three painted on the field and NFL players wearing t-shirts that read “Love for Damar 3” during their warm-up drills.
Hamlin had his breathing tube removed, and in a tweet, the Bills quoted his doctors as saying his neurological function was intact and he could talk to his family and care team.
The NFL called off the Bills’ game against the Bengals following the incident.
NFL owners then approved changes to the AFC playoff structure, as the result of the game would have affected the playoff seeding as both sides would have already secured postseason spots.
The Bills and Bengals’ postseason positions after the final round of play this weekend will be determined by their winning percentage in their completed 16 games – instead of the full 17.
The AFC Championship game could be played at a neutral venue when the home side would normally have been decided by the outcome of the canceled game between the Bengals and Bills.
After the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, it will be played at a neutral venue as the Bills beat the Patriots and end up taking on the Chiefs in the AFC title game.
The Patriots will guarantee a playoff spot if they beat the Bills, but a loss would potentially open the door for either the Miami Dolphins or the Pittsburgh Steelers to claim seventh place.
The Buffalo Bills players all wore clothing and hats with Damar Hamlin’s picture, name or numberThe number three on the 30-yard line will be outlined in Bill’s blue at all NFL games this weekend