Sports

Bills return opening kickoff for TD in first game since Damar Hamlin collapse, player reacts

With Damar Hamlin watching, the Buffalo Bills opened up their final game of the 2022 regular season against the New England Patriots in electric fashion.

Nyheim Hines returned the Patriots kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to open the game. It was Hines’ first kick-return touchdown of his career and it set the tone of the start of the game.

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Buffalo Bills running back Nyheim Hines warms up before the Bengals game on Jan. 2, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
(Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Hamlin was watching the game from his hospital bed at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center as he recovers from a cardiac arrest medical emergency he suffered during Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin tweeted his support for his teammates before the game and also had the perfect reaction to Hines’ kickoff return for a touchdown.

Hamlin made a tackle on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, got up from the tackle and then collapsed on the ground. The team said he suffered cardiac arrest and needed his heartbeat restored on the field before he was rushed to the hospital.

BILLS, PATRIOTS PLAYERS SHOW SUPPORT FOR DAMAR HAMLIN BEFORE MATCHUP

Buffalo Bills fans hold signs in support of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin before the New England Patriots game at Highmark Stadium on Jan. 8, 2023, in Orchard Park, New York.

Buffalo Bills fans hold signs in support of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin before the New England Patriots game at Highmark Stadium on Jan. 8, 2023, in Orchard Park, New York.
(Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

Over the course of the week, the news on Hamlin’s condition got better. On Saturday, doctors tending to Hamlin described his neurological function as “excellent.” The Bills said Hamlin continues to breathe on his own but remained in critical condition. He was taken off a ventilator Friday and showed an ability to speak.

Hamlin also tweeted for the first time since the incident.

A player wears a patch in support of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin at Highmark Stadium on Jan. 8, 2023.

A player wears a patch in support of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin at Highmark Stadium on Jan. 8, 2023.
(Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

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“Putting love into the world comes back 3xs as much… thankful for everyone who has reached out and prayed. This will make me stronger on the road to recovery, keep praying for me!” he wrote Saturday.

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