ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — With a helmet on, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin took part in team drills on Tuesday for the first time this spring and some six months since having a near-death experience during a game.
Hamlin appeared upbeat by happily waving to the cameras pointed at him during pre-practice stretching drills. Soon after, he served as a punt protector in several special team periods.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane called it measured progress.
"Really proud of him to take that next step. Obviously you guys have seen him out here working out. He put the helmet on the last practice of last week. I texted his parents afterwards... just so proud of him and thrilled for where he's at in his journey. He's still got more milestones to hit."
Beane says the next milestone will come after the team reports to training camp in late July.
"The next thing will be that we've got to put pads on and it will be at training camp, but we thought it was really important for him to, if he could and felt he was ready... You know this is a two-way communication... it's not us saying you've got to do this. He's worked really hard on the mental side of this. Physically, he's all cleared."
Hamlin had previously been limited to taking part in individual drills and the stretching portions of practice over the previous two weeks of the team’s voluntary sessions. The 25-year-old has made it his objective to resume his football career after going into cardiac arrest and needing to be resuscitated on the field during a game at Cincinnati on Jan. 2.
The frightening collapse led to the game being eventually canceled by the NFL, and had Hamlin spending 10 days recovering and being monitored in hospitals in Cincinnati and Buffalo. The third-year player was fully cleared to resume playing in April, and has spent much of the past two months working out at the team’s facility.