Buffalo Bills Football

Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin (3) works out during practice, Tuesday, in Orchard Park.

ORCHARD PARK — Damar Hamlin was wearing his familiar No. 3 blue practice jersey Tuesday as he continues his journey back to the NFL five months after his heart stopped on Monday Night Football.

Hamlin did not participate in team drills nor wear a helmet, but did take part in individual action during Bills organized team activities. It has been more than a month since Hamlin was cleared to return to practice, but there is no timeline on when he may be ready to practice or play in a full capacity.

Buffalo coach Sean McDermott declined to elaborate on Hamlin’s activities or timetable prior to practice Tuesday, but acknowledged he was with the team.

“He has not been practicing,” McDermott said. “We're just going to continue to take it one day at a time and just support Damar in every way possible.”

Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest and was revived on the field midway through the first quarter against the Bengals on Jan. 2. Hamlin, Bills coaches and doctors were mum on the cause until the 25-year-old revealed on April 18 that it was Commotio cordis, when an abnormal heart rhythm and cardiac arrest occur at the same time due to a sudden chest impact at a 90-degree angle over the left side of the heart.

Under McDermott, the Bills have been cautious with injuries and Hamlin still required a respirator when he was released from the hospital on Jan. 11. Defensive backs coach John Butler called Hamlin’s return “a miracle” and said, “All we can do is listen, communicate with him and try to get on the same level as him.”

There are fewer than 30 cases of Commotio cordis yearly in the United States, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which makes odds of recurrence also small. Hamlin has said he does not fret about it happening again, but regaining his strength and stamina may take time.

“He's still got a little bit of ways to go, but just with each step, the players and coaches embracing him and the journey he's on — that is unique only to him — that he's going through,” Butler said. “So to have him out there in the drills, in the walk-through, in the meetings, just around day to day, I think it's incredible. Just continue to look forward to how many more steps he's going to take to get to where he eventually wants to get to.”


Like always, Von Miller had a lot to say Tuesday. But his last sentence, although brief, provided the most insight to his recovery process.

The Bills $120-million defensive end is still working his way back from a torn ACL suffered on Thanksgiving and did not wear a practice jersey during OTAs. There’s still no firm timetable on his return, but Miller said he wanted to be ready when the team needs him.

Miller went on to say that he’d be happy to be ready by the season opener, but he’d also be ready if his return came on Week 6, adding, “But I can guarantee you it won’t be any later than that.”

“in 2013, when I tore my ACL, I wanted to be here,” Miller said. “I wanted to get back as fast as possible and play and show guys you don't need to take nine months to recover from an ACL. But goals are different now. I want to be here for my team when they need me the most. And I felt like late in the season when shit really got tough, I wasn't able to be there because I was injured.”

Miller admitted he has been running and doing some defensive line drills at a slow pace, but has not started cutting on his injured knee yet.

After recording eight sacks in 11 games during his first season in Buffalo, Miller had surgery in December. Typical return from ACL occurs nine to 12 months after injury, according to the National Institutes of Health.

If Miller heals at such a rate, it would place his return anywhere from Week 1 to early December and each player progresses differently. Tre’Davious White, for example, tore his ACL on Thanksgiving 2021 and did not return for a full year, coincidentally on the same game Miller was injured.

“I feel like I could do way more, which I feel like that's a good sign,” Miller said. But you got nine months to really figure everything out. And there's no reason to force it in five months or six months or even seven months. So I'm in a great spot. I think going ahead and having the surgery back in December, it allowed me a little bit more time to get ready for this season.”


Although this week’s activities are voluntary, the Bills had nearly perfect attendance.

Eighty-six of the team’s 90 players were present for workouts, but Stefon Diggs, Matt Milano, Latavius Murray and Greg Mancz were not. No reasons were provided for the absences and when asked prior to practice if Diggs was there, McDermott simply said, “No.”

Unsubstantiated rumors about Diggs’ desire to play for the Bills have circulated throughout the offseason, particularly after a sideline blow-up directed at Josh Allen during the AFC divisional round loss to the Bengals and an immediate exit from the stadium after the game.

But these OTAs are not mandatory and there is no contact in practice during the week. Mandatory workouts are scheduled to begin June 13 and Miller didn’t have any doubt that Diggs would attend.

“We've all seen you don't need OTAs to be successful,” Miller said. “Like 2020, nobody had OTAs, everybody was still good. And he's a proven veteran, a superstar on and off the football field. I don't think it's a big deal about him not being in OTAs.”

Nick Sabato can be reached via email at nick.sabato@gnnewspaper.com or on Twitter @NickSabatoGNN.

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