Thursday marked another stunning turn in the miraculous recovery of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin after he suffered on the football field against the Cincinnati Bengals Jan. 2. After speaking publicly for the first time on , Hamlin now has the belief of the NFL Players Association's medical director that he will eventually play NFL football again, something that seemed unfathomable about five weeks ago.
"I guarantee you that Damar Hamlin will play professional football again," Dr. Thom Mayer, the medical director for the NFLPA, said Wednesday on SiriusXM Doctor Radio's "Heart to Heart" show.
NFL medical director Allen Sills also chimed in on Hamlin's future, describing all the steps needed before a decision on whether Hamlin will step onto a field again to play is made.
"This is about a player and a patient and about getting the very best care," Sills told the Washington Post. "And, again, I do want to protect the privacy of those involved. But what I would say is I know that the Buffalo Bills have already engaged a number of outside consultants and will continue to do so. And they'll gather opinions and then, [with] all of those opinions, they'll sit down with Mr. Hamlin, his family, his agents, all the people that love him and lay that out. And that's what we do in medicine every day is say, 'Here's our understanding of risks. Here's our understanding of the situation. Let us make sure that you have all the information and make a good decision.' And ultimately that is the decision."
Sills emphasized that at the end of it all, Hamlin is the one who will ultimately make the decision. The Bills and the medical staff involved in his recovery and potential road back to the NFL are involved in a major way, but it does come down to what Hamlin wants to do.
"It's his decision, and he is the person that will need to drive that decision, and then we'll all line up and support that. So I think that's something to happen down the road," Sills said. "I think right now the focus is on his recovery and his continued improvement. And then there will be another day and time to discuss all that. But it will be strictly led by him and those that are close to him. And the Buffalo medical staff, I know, has, as I said, already engaged and will engage a lot of experts to help provide input and opinions into that process."
Whether he plays or not will be decided in due time and for right now the focus continues to be on Hamlin's health.
"At this time we are only focusing on Damar's health and ensuring that he makes a full recovery," Hamlin's agent Ira Turner told the Post via email. "Any decisions as it pertains to football will be made by Damar when he is ready to do so."
Hamlin participated in the 2023 NFLPA awards at the Super Bowl festivities in Arizona on Wednesday, winning the Alan Page Community Award and walking onto the stage to personally accept the honor.
"Being recognized for the NFLPA Alan Page Community Award is humbling and a dream come true," Hamlin said. "I'm humbled to even be mentioned amongst those guys. I've always wanted to impact my community and show that it's possible to do great things. With this award, we'll be able to impact even more people and keep this mission going."
The accolade honors the player who "demonstrates a profound dedication to positively impacting his team's city and communities across the country," according to the NFLPA. The award is named after Pro Football Hall of Famer and retired Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page.
Hamlin has raised more than $9 million for his Chasing M's Foundation, per ESPN, as people showed their support by donating to his toy drive fundraiser in the days following his on-field scare. He is also using the proceeds from the sales of his T-shirts that say "Did we win?" on them to raise money for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he was treated after the injury. Those were Hamlin's first words upon waking up following his "Monday Night Football" collapse.
Halfway into the first quarter of the Bills' Week 17 game against the Bengals on "Monday Night Football," Hamlin collided with Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins as he tackled the Bengals star wide receiver after a 13-yard gain. Hamlin immediately collapsed in the process of standing back up, prompting the Bills' medical staff to administer emergency medical treatment. Hamlin was taken off the field by ambulance and taken to UC Medical Center after receiving CPR and an automated external defibrillation (AED), where he remained in critical condition for an extended amount of time. The game was halted and never completed.