Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has issued a video statement on Instagram, marking the first time most people have seen his face up close and heard his voice since he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field earlier this month.
On Saturday evening, Hamlin, 24, posted a six-minute video to his Instagram account. In the video, aptly titled "Thank You: A message from Damar Hamlin," Hamlin delivers a series of statements, most of them expressions of gratitude for various people and groups who have assisted him in his recovery.
Hamlin opens the video by walking into camera view in what appears to be a Bills facility. He places a jacket on a chair and then speaks directly into the camera, though the film regularly flashes to images and clips of others, including medical personnel, other NFL players, fans, and members of his family.
"It's just been a lot to process," Hamlin admits, "but I can't tell you how appreciative I am of all the love, all the support, and everything's that's just been coming in my way."
"What happened to me on Monday Night Football, I feel, is a direct example of God using me as a vessel to share my passion and my love directly from my heart with the entire world," Hamlin states. "And now I'm able to give it back to kids and communities all across the world who need it the most, and that's always been my dream. That's always been what I stood for and what I'll continue to stand for."
On January 2, Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after taking a hit to the chest as he tackled wide receiver Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin required immediate medical assistance, and emergency teams had to resuscitate him twice that night. The game never resumed.
Despite the severity of the immediate situation, Hamlin has since progressed "remarkably" and was able to return to Buffalo roughly a week after the incident. The cause of his collapse has either not yet been determined or not yet been released.
In the last few weeks, however, rumors have swirled on social media about whether Hamlin has improved as much as had been indicated. Hamlin's face has often been obscured, even during so-called "public appearances." Though he attended the Bills' playoff game on January 22 — against the Cincinnati Bengals, no less — the camera gave no close-ups of his face, even as he entered Highmark Stadium, and audiences mainly saw just his silhouette through the suite window during the game.
Even an image posted to Hamlin's Instagram account earlier this week showed Hamlin in sunglasses and a hoodie sweatshirt and gazing toward the ground, prompting some to speculate that he was deliberately shielding his face. Others even suggested that Hamlin may have used a body double, either to hide supposed setbacks in his recovery or to monetize his return by "selling" an interview to a big-name journalist like Oprah Winfrey.
BlazeTV's Jason Whitlock seemed to speak for many skeptics this week when he asked, "Why the secrecy?"
Hamlin addressed those rumors indirectly, stating in the video that he had been waiting for "the right time" to speak publicly.
"Now that my brothers have closed out a strong winning season as I continued to make so much progress recovering, I think it's finally a good time to share a few things," Hamlin says to open the video. "I think it was important for me to wait and speak publicly at the right time, as it was just a lot to process within my own self. Mentally, physically, even spiritually, it's just been a lot to process."
Hamlin spends the majority of the video thanking people, often by name, including the Bills' training staff; medical teams at "Cincinnati Medical Center and Buffalo General Hospital"; his mother, father, and little brother; the Bills organization and the NFL as a whole; loyal Bills fans known as "Bills Mafia"; Bengals fans; donors to his organization, the Chasing M's foundation; and all the "kids who sent [him] letters and heartwarming gifts."
"'It's always been important for me to be a role model, but just seeing the love and support from the youth, it just makes me want to give back and get out in the communities and touch the kids and be that example that they can look to, touch, feel, talk to and know that whatever they dream of, it's real. It can happen, if you stay focus, stay dedicated, stay committed to whatever you've got going on," Hamlin states.
"While I’m so thankful to everybody, I know that it isn’t enough just to be thankful," Hamlin says to close his message. "This is just the beginning of the impact that I wanted to have on the world. I couldn’t do this without any of this support and the love, and I can’t wait to continue to take y’all on this journey with me."
He then ends the video by making the shape of a heart with his hands, a signature move which seems to express love and make subtle reference to his health and recovery.
Editor's note: The word "publicly" has been added to the headline to avoid misleading readers that the new video includes the first words Hamlin has spoken since the incident on January 2.
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