ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Damar Hamlin’s recovery is moving in “a positive direction” two days after the Buffalo Bills safety collapsed and went into cardiac arrest during a game against Cincinnati, the player’s marketing representative said Wednesday.
“We all remain optimistic,” Jordon Rooney, a family spokesman who described himself as a good friend of the player, told The Associated Press by phone. He said he was unable to go into further detail on Hamlin’s status at the request of his family, not to provide specifics.
The Bills said Wednesday that Hamlin remained hospitalized in critical condition but displayed signs of improvement on Tuesday and overnight. They said he was expected to remain in intensive care as his medical team continued to monitor and treat him.
Rooney said Hamlin’s family was staying positive and was buoyed by the outpouring of worldwide support the second-year Bills player has received since his heart stopped and he was resuscitated on the field before being loaded into an ambulance and transported the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
“They are elated right now,” Rooney said. “Damar is still their first concern. But for them, they always look at how they can turn a somewhat troubling situation into a good one. The bounce back from this, for him and his family, is going to be incredible.”
Rooney’s update came after Hamlin’s uncle, Dorrian Glenn, told numerous media outlets Tuesday night there were some encouraging signs in his nephew’s progress, such as doctors lowering the level of oxygen Hamlin needs from 100% to 50%.
“He’s still sedated right now,” Glenn told CNN. “They just want him to have a better chance of recovering better. So, they feel that if he’s sedated, his body can heal a lot faster than if he was woke and possibly cause other complications.”
Rooney did say there was a misunderstanding when Glenn said Hamlin had to be resuscitated twice. Rooney said that “isn’t exactly true,” without going into detail.
The chilling scene of Hamlin’s collapse, which played out in front of a North American television audience on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” has put the NFL on hold, with the pivotal game suspended indefinitely. The Kansas Chiefs are battling with the Bills and Bengals for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The Bills, who returned to Buffalo early Tuesday, are scheduled to hold team meetings and a walkthrough practice without any media availability on Wednesday. They are expected to resume practice on Thursday ahead of their home game against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
The Patriots also pushed back their media availability to Thursday and noted the NFL approved giving both teams an extra day “due to these unique circumstances.”
What remains unclear is whether the NFL will reschedule the Bills’ game against the Bengals, which has major implications in determining who wins the AFC race, with the playoffs set to open on Jan. 14.
The Chiefs (13-3) currently have a half-game lead over Buffalo (12-3), with the Bills owning the tiebreaker after beating Kansas City this season. The Bengals (11-4) are currently the third seed and have also defeated the Chiefs this season.
Players and fans from across the NFL rallied to Hamlin’s support, with vigils held in Cincinnati and outside the Bills’ home stadium. The shock of what happened also reverberated in Pittsburgh, where the 24-year-old Hamlin grew up and was determined to give back to those in need.
Hamlin was hurt in the first quarter when he was struck squarely in the chest while making what appeared to be routine tackle of Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin briefly got up and adjusted his facemask before collapsing backward.
Hamlin is from McKees Rocks, a hardscrabble exurb of Pittsburgh, and was selected by Buffalo in the sixth round of the 2021 draft out of Pitt. He spent his rookie season limited to special teams roles and took over the starting job in Week 3 in place of veteran Micah Hyde, who remains sidelined by a neck injury.
Fans, players and NFL owners have been making donations to Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation. The foundation’s modest goal of raising $2,500 for a toy drive exceeded $6.3 million by noon on Wednesday. Patriots owner Robert Kraft donated $18,003, while Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, together with his wife, Ciara, made $10,000 contributions.
“Damar would want to use this to help other people. He would hate for all his attention to just be on him and there not be a positive outcome,” Rooney told reporters at the hospital. “So, I mean, that’s Damar. I mean, his entire life is spent towards providing and serving other people. That’s just who he is.”