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By JOHN WAWROW
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Damar Hamlin released a video Saturday in which he says he’s thankful for the outpouring of support and vows to pay it back, marking the first time the Buffalo Bills safety has spoken publicly since he went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the field in Cincinnati on Jan. 2.
Noting he continues to make “much progress” in his recovery, Hamlin said now was “the right time” to speak since the Bills’ season ended and because he needed time to recover and gather his thoughts.
“It was just a lot to process within my own self — mentally, physically, even spiritually. It’s just been a lot to process,” he said. “But I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of all the love, all the support and everything that’s just been coming in my way.”
Hamlin then said he has come to peace with what happened on the field when he collapsed after making what appeared to be a routine tackle of Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who struck Hamlin squarely in the chest.
“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,” he said.
“And now I’m able to give to kids and communities all across the world who need it the most. And that’s always been my dream,” he added. “That’s always been what I stood for and what I will continue to stand for.”
Hamlin did not appear to have any trouble speaking during the 5 1/2-minute video titled: “Thank You: A message from Damar Hamlin” posted on his Instagram account.
The video opens with Hamlin walking into view, placing down a jacket and taking a seat in what appears to be one of the Bills team meeting rooms. The room is dimly lit with the word `Bills’ prominently displayed behind him.
Hamlin is wearing a white T-shirt with the name of his charitable foundation, Chasing Millions, printed on the front and with a gold chain with the initials “DM” hanging around his neck.
The Bills did not immediately respond to a message about when or where the video was filmed.
On Jan. 20, Hamlin’s marketing representative Jordon Rooney said the 24-year-old player faces a long recovery while at the time still requiring oxygen and having his heart monitored regularly to ensure there are no setbacks.
Hamlin has been recovering at home since being released from the hospital on Jan. 11 to continue his rehabilitation with the Bills. He then began making regular visits to the team’s facility and was healthy enough to attend the Bills’ season-ending 27-10 loss to the Bengals in a divisional playoff game last weekend.
Hamlin spent a majority of the video providing thanks while listing his family, teammates, training staff, and the medical staff at both the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Buffalo General Medical Center, where he split his recovery.
He thanked the Bengals and players from around the league for their support by “putting team allegiance aside.”
“You put humanity above team loyalty. You showed the world unity over division,” Hamlin said. “I’m not surprised by it, but I’m deeply grateful and I will be forever thankful and indebted to that.”
He also thanked those who donated more than $9 million to his charity over the past four weeks.
“While I’m so thankful to everybody, I know that it isn’t enough just to be thankful. This is just the beginning of the impact that I wanted to have on the world,” Hamlin said in closing the video by making a heart sign with his hands.
“I couldn’t do this without any of this support and the love,” he continued. “And I can’t wait to continue to take y’all on this journey with me.”
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