ORCHARD PARK, NY — Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White leaned back in his chair and sighed.
“Honestly, I don’t know how some of us did it,” White said Sunday. “Just because some of us had a different take on what was going on [with Damar Hamlin]and that’s traumatizing.
“I’ve seen traumatic things in my life growing up where I grew up and just the environment I grew up in, but it was always the end result of going and seeing it. But there was never a time when I saw every event, everything leaked out to the end. So it’s tough man.
Less than a week away from Hamlin collapsing on the field in front of his teammates, a stadium full of people and the world, the Bills took to a soccer field in full uniform and played a game for the first time. For the entire organization, the emotional toll of Monday night and the week was felt in different ways.
The game will go down in the record books as a 35-23 win over the New England Patriots, who sealed the AFC No. 2 spot and gave the Bills a 13-win season. But that only tells the smallest part of what was experienced.
White described the week leading up to the game as an “S—Show” because of the proximity of the bond in defenders’ room and the fact that he had seen every element of Hamlin’s breakdown Monday night.
“For him getting up, for him, for him, for everything, it’s just something I can’t overlook,” White said. “Every time I close my eyes it repeats. I try to watch TV and every time TV goes into commercials it’s just the only thing that comes to my mind, just the vision of it. So it’s been a tough week. It’s been a tough week for our entire team. But it’s not about us now. It’s about Damar and his family, man, and what they’ve been through. …And hopefully we never have to go through that again.”
The Bills now host the Miami Dolphins in the wild card round of the playoffs on Sunday. But this game for the Bills was about so much more.
“I don’t think it was about me, it was about playing for him,” said Safety Dean Marlowe, who played in Hamlin’s place. “Anything I can do to make him watch and just be proud that the guys in the backend are doing their job. So at all times I know I have to do my job and it’s the league. So next man up mentality, and I go out and play for my brothers.”
Signs of the player missing from the stadium were everywhere, from the #3 badges on the Bills players’ jerseys to signs around the stadium dedicated to Hamlin and the Bills’ medical staff and athletic training staff who gave him the Saved lives when he was recognized before the game. Hamlin watched from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and tweeted his thoughts throughout the day.
For some Bills players, Nyheim Hines’ 96-yard kickoff return touchdown on the first snap was a moment well beyond a single game.
“You want the truth, it was spiritual, it really was. bone freeze. It was special,” said quarterback Josh Allen. “I can’t remember a piece that touched me like that, I don’t think in all my life. So it’s probably #1 [football memory]. It was just spiritual. And I went around with my teammates and I said, ‘God is real.’ There’s no better way to pull this off.”
Hamlin tweeted “OMFG” in response to the score.
Hines scored on a second kickoff return in the second half, becoming the first Bills player to score two kick return touchdowns in a game and the 11th player in NFL history. The running back described his emotions on the first return as “electrifying” and said he felt Hamlin was out there with the team.
When tight end Dawson Knox scored a touchdown in the second quarter, he promptly rolled over, surfaced, and threw the ball in the air. The tight end then raised three fingers, made a heart with his hands and said, “I love you boy.”
Hamlin replied on Twitter, “I love you too,” including an emoji of hands forming a heart.
In the locker room after the game, Hamlin was there, or at least he was on FaceTime, the team broke down after the game and took the cue ball, along with the athletic coaching staff.
“[Hamlin] said: “Love you all boys, Bills on three, Bills on me. 1-2-3 Bills’,” Allen said.
There were a variety of other ways Hamlin was shown support throughout the game. Signs with well wishes for Hamlin and those who saved his life were displayed on the video board throughout the day and wide receiver John Brown passed the ball off his touchdown catch to assistant athletic trainer Danny Kellington, who administered CPR to Hamlin. Arrested in the field Monday night when he was suffering from a heart condition.
Before the game, the Bills honored those who saved Hamlin’s life by naming all of the team’s medical staff and athletic training staff amid a big round of applause and cheers. A few Bills players ran onto the field with ‘3’ and ‘Pray for Damar’ flags before the game. Allen threw three passing touchdowns and the Bills had three interceptions — one each from White and linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano.
“I just thank him, and it’s a coincidence the way things like this happen,” Nickel-Ecke Taron Johnson said of the wiretaps. “It’s all His work but hopefully Damar is smiling, hopefully Damar is happy, hopefully he’s better. This one was definitely for D-Ham.”
Players across the league also showed their support for Hamlin, with his former Bills teammate and current Pittsburgh Steeler cornerback Levi Wallace saying he would send the ball to Hamlin from his Sunday interception.
Immediately after the game, Hamlin announced on Twitter that he was selling t-shirts with the now iconic image of his hands forming a heart and “Did we win?”. something he asked the doctors when he woke up in the hospital after Monday night.
Hamlin showed another example of who he is as a teammate by texting the defenders around 2:31am Saturday morning, writing: “Thinking of you all, I’m sorry I did this to you guys. “
“For him to check on us when he’s the person that’s going through what he’s going through, man, that just shows what kind of person he is to check on us,” White said. “I just want to hug him. Because he’s sitting like two seats away from me in the briefing room and every time he walks into the briefing room – ‘T. Weezy.’ I can’t wait to hear his voice and be able to touch him and just hug him and hear that all over again. So we miss you man and just get in touch with us. But it was, It’s been a tough week. It’s been a tough week.”
https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/35407770/bills-honor-damar-hamlin-win-pats-clinch-no-2-seed Bills honor Damar Hamlin in emotional win to cap ‘hard week’