By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Damar Hamlin visited with teammates at the Bills’ facility on Saturday for the first time since being discharged from a Buffalo hospital, 12 days after the safety went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the field during a game in Cincinnati.
Bills linebacker Matt Milano posted a photo on his Instagram account of a smiling Hamlin shaking hands with a teammate.
A person with direct knowledge of Hamlin’s schedule confirmed to The Associated Press the player’s visit. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because Hamlin has kept his schedule and recovery private.
Hamlin was cleared to go home Wednesday after undergoing final tests at Buffalo General Medical Center. His trip to meet with teammates comes a day before the Bills (13-3) host the division rival Miami Dolphins (9-8) in a wild-card playoff game, heightening the possibility he might be healthy enough to attend the game.
The 24-year-old Hamlin continues what doctors have referred to as “a remarkable recovery” since his heart stopped after being hit squarely in the chest by Bengals receiver Tee Higgins in the first quarter of a since-canceled game at Cincinnati on Jan. 2.
Hamlin spent his first two days at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center under sedation and breathing through a ventilator. Upon being awakened, Hamlin showed no signs of neurological damage and within four days of his arrival was breathing on his own as well as walking and talking.
He first interacted with his teammates on Jan. 6, when Hamlin appeared by videoconference from his hospital room. He flexed his muscles and spoke to them, saying, “Love you boys.”
Hamlin live-tweeted during the Bills’ 35-23 season-closing win over New England on Sunday, and a day later was released from the Cincinnati hospital and transferred to Buffalo. He is now continuing his rehabilitation with the Bills.
As Hamlin’s recovery progressed, the Bills and the NFL’s messaging switched from “Prayers for Damar 3” to “Love for Damar 3” by last weekend, when the entire league honored Hamlin, who wears No. 3.
Hamlin’s recovery has uplifted the Bills, who were stunned and teary-eyed upon watching medical personnel revive their teammate.
The Bills on Wednesday were cautious about when they’d get a chance to meet with Hamlin in person, saying it was dependent on the player regaining his strength.
“Just making sure he’s taking it slow, and obviously trying to get back to being himself,” quarterback Josh Allen said. “So we’ll take all the time that we need. But I hope he knows the guys are ready to see him.”
In the days that followed his collapse, $8.6 million in GoFundMe donations poured into Hamlin’s toy drive fundraiser, which will be used to support young people through education and sports.
Hamlin, who is from the Pittsburgh exurb of McKees Rocks, also will use proceeds from the sale of new T-shirts, emblazoned with “Did We Win?” along with his hands in the shape of a heart, to raise money for the trauma center in Cincinnati that initially treated him.
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