Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has taken a big step forward in his recovery from cardiac arrest, with the University of Cincinnati Medical Center announcing Thursday the 24-year-old is now awake and communicating with doctors. Hours later, two of Hamlin's most prominent colleagues, Bills coach Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen, addressed the media for the first time since the defensive back collapsed during Monday's game against the Bengals. Both Allen and McDermott expressed gratitude for Hamlin's improvement, adding that it's inspired them to return to the field in his honor.

"Mario, [Hamlin's father], talking to us as a team, he kinda told us -- demanded us -- [to play for his son], and you can't not honor his request to go out there and charge forward to the best of our abilities," Allen said. "Today's news was a lot of tears of joy, but ... that's what he wants, that's what his dad wants, and guys are excited to get out there. ... We wanna go out there and play for 3. It'll be a huge driving force."

McDermott emphasized that he has a different perspective, working from the sidelines rather than putting his body at risk on the field, but echoed Allen's anticipation to resume playing, especially in light of Hamlin's latest improvements.

"The news we received today in particular was a huge lift," McDermott said.

Recounting Monday night, when Hamlin exited the Bills' game by ambulance after receiving CPR and resuscitation, Allen specifically credited his coach for leading the team through the incident.

"He was the perfect man to handle that type of situation," the quarterback said. "Being on the field, you hurt for your brother ... Coach handled it as perfect as anybody could. ... I don't typically like using emotion to answer questions, but the scene just replays over and over in your head. It's hard to actually describe how I felt, how my teammates felt, in that moment. It's something we'll never forget."

McDermott also took time during Thursday's press conference to thank all those involved in Hamlin's rehabilitation and the events surrounding it, including University of Cincinnati medical staff, first responders, Bills and Bengals doctors, Bengals coach Zac Taylor, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Monday's officiating crew, and fans around the league.

"The amount of faith, hope and love that we've seen displayed is nothing short of amazing," he said. "And just as important as anything, glory to God for his keeping Damar and his family in the palm of his hand, and his healing power."