Damar Hamlin's objective to resume his playing career after a near-death experience in early January became complete on Sunday, when the Bills safety took the field as part of Buffalo's kickoff return unit to open its game against the Miami Dolphins.
The kickoff resulted in a touchback, but it marked a key milestone for Hamlin in appearing in his first regular- season game some nine months since going into cardiac arrest and needing to be resuscitated on the field during a game at Cincinnati. Hamlin also appeared on the Bills kickoff coverage team after Buffalo opened the scoring on Josh Allen's 18-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Davis.
Hamlin was a healthy scratch through the Bills first three games this season, and got the nod to play with starting safety Jordan Poyer sidelined by a knee injury. Primary backup Taylor Rapp is expected to fill Poyer’s spot alongside Micah Hyde, with the third-year player serving as a backup in facing a high-powered Dolphins' offense that leads the league in most every statistical category.
The 25-year-old Hamlin was the last Bills' player to exit the tunnel before kickoff. He ran the length of the field with his arms spread before taking off his helmet in the end zone and stood before a cheering crowd.
Before pregame warmups, Hamlin huddled members of the defensive secondary in the tunnel before heading out to the field.
Since being cleared to resume playing in April, Hamlin has showed no signs of tentativeness in passing every on-field test he’s faced in making the Bills' 53-player roster in August. He combined for nine tackles in appearing in all three of Buffalo’s preseason games in August.
Hamlin was starting in place of Hyde when he went into cardiac arrest after making what appeared to be a routine tackle in the first quarter against the Bengals on Jan. 2.
His heart stopped as a result of commotio cordis, which happens when a direct blow at a specific point in a heartbeat causes cardiac arrest. Doctors have assured Hamlin he can resume playing without any fear of setbacks or reoccurrence.