Team says Hamlin’s recovery is moving in “a positive direction”

Damar Hamlin

As a sedated Damar Hamlin lay before him in a Cincinnati hospital bed surrounded by machinery feeding him oxygen and fluids, Indianapolis Colts safety Rodney Thomas provided a few words of encouragement to his friend.

“I just told him, I got him. That’s all,” Thomas said. “Just saying the same thing: I got his back and you’re going to get through it.”

It didn’t matter to Thomas whether the Buffalo Bills safety could hear him. More important to Thomas, who made the two-hour drive from Indianapolis to Cincinnati, was being by the side of Hamlin — his former high school teammate in Pittsburgh — and the player’s family.

“It just calmed me down and made that trip home a lot easier,” Thomas said. “I could just go home and I could just know that he’s going to be straight. I’ve got him. The world’s got him.”

Two days after the 24-year-old Hamlin’s heart stopped and he needed to be resuscitated on the field during a game at the Bengals, an immense outpouring of support continued.

After fans held vigils in Cincinnati and at the Bills home in Orchard Park, New York, on Tuesday, it was time for the NFL community — those who know Hamlin and those who had never heard of him before Monday — to express its support with most teams returning to practice.

Though he’s still under sedation, Hamlin’s recovery from cardiac arrest continues moving in “a positive direction,” the player’s marketing representative, Jordon Rooney, told The Associated Press by phone.

“We all remain optimistic,” Rooney said, adding that Hamlin’s family asked him not to go into further detail.

The Bills said Hamlin was still in critical condition but displayed signs of improvement. They said he was expected to remain in intensive care.

Rooney said Hamlin’s family was buoyed by the words and acts of kindness the second-year player has received since being transported by ambulance to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

“They are elated right now,” Rooney said. “Damar is still their first concern. But for them, they always look at how they can turn a somewhat troubling situation into a good one. The bounce back from this, for him and his family is going to be incredible.”

NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent said his discussions with Bills coach Sean McDermott have focused solely on mental health and how McDermott and the team are dealing with what happened.

“It is tough. And coach is still battling,” Vincent said, his voice cracking.

The Patriots also pushed back their media availability to Thursday, and noted the NFL approved giving both teams an extra day “due to these unique circumstances.”

What remains unclear is whether the NFL will reschedule the Bills’ game against the Bengals, which has major implications in determining the top spot in the AFC. The playoffs are set to open on Jan. 14.

AP Pro Football Writers Rob Maaddi, Dave Campbell and Arnie Stapleton, and AP Sports Writers Michael Marot, Stephen Whyno, Andrew Seligman and Dave Skretta contributed to this report.

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