ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White leaned again in his chair and sighed.
“Honestly, I don’t know how some of us did it,” White stated Sunday. “Just because some of us had a different view of what went on [with Damar Hamlin], and that is traumatizing.
“I’ve seen traumatic issues in my life simply rising up the place I grew up at and simply within the surroundings that I’ve been raised in, nevertheless it was at all times the top results of me strolling up and seeing it. But there was by no means a time the place I noticed each occasion, all the pieces transpire to the top. So, it is powerful, man.”
Less than a week removed from Hamlin collapsing on the field in front of his teammates, a stadium full of people and the world, the Bills went out in full uniform on a football field for the first time and played a game. For the entire organization, the emotional toll of Monday night and the week was felt in different ways.
In the record books, the game will go down as a 35-23 win over the New England Patriots that sealed the No. 2 seed in the AFC and gave the Bills a 13-win season. But that tells only the smallest portion of what was experienced.
White described the week leading up to the game as a “s— present” because of the closeness of the bond in the defensive backs’ room and the fact that he saw every element of Hamlin’s collapse Monday night.
“To him getting up, to him falling, to all the pieces, it is simply one thing that I can not unsee,” White said. “Everytime I shut my eyes, it replays. I attempt watching TV, and each time the TV go to business, it is simply the one factor that involves my thoughts, simply the imaginative and prescient of that. So, it has been a tricky week. It’s been a tricky week for our entire staff. But it isn’t about us proper now. It’s about Damar and his household, man, and simply what they needed to undergo. … And hopefully we’ll by no means need to undergo this once more.”
The Bills will now host the Miami Dolphins in the wild-card round of the playoffs on Sunday. But this game for the Bills was about so much more than that.
“In my thoughts, it wasn’t about me, it was about taking part in for him,” said safety Dean Marlowe, who played in Hamlin’s place. “Everything that I can do for him to look at and simply be proud that the fellows on the again finish are doing their job. So, at any time limit, I do know I’ve acquired to do my job and it is the league. So next-man-up mentality, and I’m going on the market and play for my brothers.”
The signs of the player missing from the stadium were everywhere, from the No. 3 badges on Bills players’ jerseys to signs around the stadium dedicated to Hamlin and the Bills’ medical personnel and athletic training staff who saved his life being recognized pregame. Hamlin watched from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, tweeting his thoughts as the day went on.
For some Bills players, Nyheim Hines’ 96-yard kickoff return touchdown on the first snap was a moment that went well beyond a single game.
“You need the reality, it was non secular, it actually was. Bone chilling. It was particular,” quarterback Josh Allen said. “I can not bear in mind a play that touched me like that, I do not assume in my life. So, it is most likely No. 1 [football memory]. It was simply non secular. And I used to be going round with my teammates and saying, ‘God’s actual.’ You cannot draw that one up any higher.”
Hamlin tweeted, “OMFG,” in response to the score.
Hines went on to score on a second kickoff return in the second half, becoming the first Bills player to score two kick return touchdowns in a game and the 11th player in NFL history. The running back described his emotions on the first return as “electrical” and said he felt like Hamlin was out there with the team.
When tight end Dawson Knox scored a touchdown in the second quarter, he promptly rolled around, popped up and threw the ball in the air. The tight end then put up three fingers, formed a heart with his hands and said, “Love ya, boy.”
Hamlin replied on Twitter, “I really like you too,” including an emoji of hands forming a heart.
In the postgame locker room, Hamlin was there, or at least he was on FaceTime, breaking down the team after the game and getting the game ball, along with the athletic training staff.
“[Hamlin] stated, ‘Love y’all boys, Bills on three, Bills on me. 1-2-3 Bills,'” Allen recounted.
There were a variety of other ways Hamlin was shown support throughout the game. Signs with well wishes to Hamlin and those who saved his life were shown on the video board throughout the day, and wide receiver John Brown gave the ball from his touchdown catch to assistant athletic trainer Danny Kellington, who administered CPR to Hamlin when he suffered cardiac arrest on the field Monday night.
Before the game, the Bills honored those who saved Hamlin’s life by naming all the team’s medical personnel and athletic training staff to a large round of applause and cheers. Some Bills players ran onto the field before the game with “3” and “Pray for Damar” flags. Allen threw three passing touchdowns, and the Bills had three interceptions — one each by White and linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano.
“I simply thank Him, and it is a coincidence how one thing like that occurs,” nickel corner Taron Johnson said of the interceptions. “That’s all His work, however hopefully Damar’s smiling, hopefully Damar’s completely satisfied, hopefully he is doing higher. This one was undoubtedly for D-Ham.”
Players around the league also showed their support for Hamlin, with his former Bills teammate, and current Pittsburgh Steeler, cornerback Levi Wallace saying he is going to mail the ball from his interception Sunday to Hamlin.
Right after the game, Hamlin announced on Twitter that he was selling T-shirts with the now-iconic image of his hands forming a heart and “Did We Win?” something he asked doctors upon waking up in the hospital after Monday night.
Hamlin showed another example of who he is as a teammate by texting the defensive backs around 2:31 a.m. on Saturday morning and wrote, “I’m fascinated about y’all, I’m sorry that I did that to y’all.”
“For him to test on us when he is the person who’s going by means of what he is going by means of, man, that simply exhibits what kind of particular person he’s for him to test on us,” White said. “I simply wish to hug the s— out of him. Because within the assembly room, he sit like two seats away from me and each time he come within the assembly room — ‘T. Weezy.’ I can not wait to listen to his voice and be capable to contact him and simply hug the s— out of him and listen to that once more. So, we miss you, man, and simply get again to us. But it has been, it has been a tough week. It’s been a tough week.”