Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin didn’t hide his true emotions after he practiced wearing pads on Monday for the first time since he famously went into cardiac arrest on Jan. 2.
“In football, you can’t hit that field with … hesitation,” Hamlin told reporters after the practice session, per Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith and Kevin Patra of the NFL’s website. “You’re putting yourself in more danger by doing that … I’m processing a thousand emotions. I’m not afraid to say that it crosses my mind of being a little scared here and there. Like I say, my strength is rooted in my faith, and my faith is stronger than any fear. That’s what I want to preach up here, and that’s the message I want to spread on to the world. As long as your faith is stronger than your fear, you can get through anything.”
Hamlin was cleared to resume football-related activities in April, and he later revealed that his medical emergency this past January was related to commotio cordis. According to the American Heart Association, commotio cordis “can happen after a sudden, blunt impact to the chest” and “can disrupt the heartbeat and cause sudden cardiac arrest.”
Hamlin collapsed on Jan. 2 following what appeared to be a routine tackle during a “Monday Night Football” game at the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane and cornerback Dane Jackson recently told NBC Sports’ Peter King how returning to padded practices was “pretty much the last step” for Hamlin as he attempts to continue his pro career.
On Monday, the 25-year-old shared why he wants to keep playing even though he nearly lost his life on the field less than seven months ago.
“I made a decision,” Hamlin explained. “My family, my mom and my dad, they were behind me either way I wanted to go, playing or not. But if this is the decision we’re gonna make, we’re gonna go with it and keep going. So I made my decision. I’m living with it.”
As of Monday afternoon, OddsChecker listed Hamlin as the betting favorite to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award for the upcoming season at -285 odds.
However, Tim Graham of The Athletic noted last week that Hamlin doesn’t have a guaranteed spot on the Buffalo roster ahead of the club’s Week 1 matchup at the New York Jets on Sept. 11.