The Bills and NFL teams are showing their love for Damar Hamlin with an on-court tribute


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Damar Hamlin’s former high school teammate caught the ball he had just caught and ran to the 30-yard line, delicately placed pork skin on top of the red bordered “3” raised his arms above his head in a heart shape.

“I’m glad I got a chance to go out there and make a play and honor him the way I did,” said Hamlin’s friend, Colts safety Rodney Thomas II.

Thomas’ move may have been the most shocking moment, but it was far from the Bills’ only outcry at safety in an NFL Sunday filled with love for a beleaguered player whose impact was felt across the country.

Hamlin’s number — the number “3” — has been displayed throughout the league, with 30-yard lines drawn on the courts, worn on custom patches on Bills uniforms, on jackets and T-shirts and even on the red hearts hanging from the tailgate tents Outside Bills Stadium.

Most of the honors, of course, came from that stand in New York’s Orchard Park, where Buffalo’s 35-23 victory over New England ended with a 96-yard punt return. game. .

“OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!! ,” Hamlin wrote after the quick score.

A safety whose recovery from a fall on the field Monday night in Cincinnati surpassed any other in NFL history. He also shared his photo “GAME TIME!!! @BuffaloBills.

Earlier, in the parking lot outside Highmark Stadium, Ryan Magnuson stood in front of a 4-by-10-foot canvas greeting card he placed at the base of the Bills’ stadium entrance for fans to sign. . The message on the card read: “If you have a chance to show love today, do it. It Won’t Get You Nothing” — cover A tweet sent by Hamlin again in 2021.

“It was very positive. I’ve seen Bills fans, I’ve seen Patriots fans and people wearing other NFL jerseys. “I think it’s more important than a team issue,” Magnuson said.

Buffalo Bills cornerback Siran Neal (33) holds a flag in support of teammate Damar Hamlin before the game against the New England Patriots at Orchard Park in New York on Sunday.

1,500 miles away and three hours later in Denver, the Chargers and Broncos each marched to the numbers before the first snap of the game, hands clasped on their sidelines, and the two teams’ No. 3s — Russell Wilson and Derwin James Jr. — met at the 50-yard line, shook hands and knelt in prayer. meat.

A moment of silence before the game for Damar Hamlin during the Denver Broncos vs. Los Angeles Chargers NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Denver.

Philadelphia running back Miles Sanders tweeted a photo of himself wearing a “Love to Damar” jersey and showing the number “3” while FaceTiming Hamlin from the hospital.

It wasn’t all warm and fuzzy.

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon celebrates a touchdown imitate a coin toss — which could have happened under the NFL’s long-delayed plan — to decide home-court advantage in a potential playoff game between the Bengals and Ravens.

Cincinnati’s 27-16 win over the Ravens on Sunday negated that possibility. The Ravens travel to Cincy next week as part of the wildcard round. But it still seems like a bit of a stretch to say things are back to normal in the NFL this week or the upcoming playoffs.

Playoff games should be adorned with “Love to Damar” T-shirts and others with “Hamlin Strong” like Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes wore in Saturday’s win over the Raiders. Some may even wear shirts sold by Hamlin himself, with proceeds going to first responders and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he collapsed on the field and had to be resuscitated by paramedics last Monday.

It’s a reminder that the high stakes of these games are about much more than the trophy handed out at the end of the Super Bowl.

A little weak. If the Chiefs and Bills make it to the AFC title game, for example, that game will be played at a neutral site in an as-yet-undetermined city.

The heart of this league beat the strongest in Buffalo on Sunday.

In the vast parking lots surrounding the stadium, fans wore handmade shirts and jerseys honoring Hamlin.

Sue Sonner wearing former Bills player EJ Manuel’s No. 3 jersey; creatively disguised her husband Manuel’s name and replaced it with Hamlin’s.

“It will be very emotional. “I’m definitely going to take tissues with me,” said Sonner, who is from Corning, N.Y., and was at Cincinnati Stadium last Monday.

“We’ve seen the rush, the injuries, the panic and all of that. A very dark, very dark environment,” he said. “Now he’s moving on and we think he’ll be fine, and now we’re excited to be playing football again. And I hope he is on the road to recovery.

AP sportswriters Mitch Stacey in Cincinnati, Eddie Pells in Denver, Mike Marot in Indianapolis and AP freelance writers Lori Chase and Jonah Bronstein in Orchard Park contributed.

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