By Amy Tennery
(Reuters) -Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin had his breathing tube removed overnight, the team said on Friday, and a call to teammates from the recovering 24-year-old set off a raucous celebration.
Players leaped to their feet, clapped and yelled as Hamlin appeared from his hospital bed on a FaceTime call during the Bills team meeting on Friday, head coach Sean McDermott said in describing the scene.
"The room went nuts. It was awesome," said Bills General Manager Brandon Beane, who returned to Buffalo on Thursday after saying behind in Cincinnati to be with Hamlin. "The hair on the back of my neck stood up."
Doctor have said that Hamlin is progressing remarkably well after having to have his heartbeat restored on the field on Monday night. After making a tackle in the first quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Hamlin collapsed, requiring emergency CPR, a scene that stunned fellow players, coaches and fans.
On Friday, Hamlin told his teammates, "Love you, boys," McDermott said - a moment that seemed unfathomable just a few days ago. Hamlin flexed his biceps and flashed a heart symbol with his hands during the call.
"It was a pretty cool exchange," McDermott told reporters, describing Hamlin as "an infectious young man with an infectious personality."
Beane talked about the decision to stay behind with Hamlin while the team returned to Buffalo to prepare for Sunday's regular season finale against the New England Patriots.
"What would you want someone to do for your son?" he said.
"So we divided up... And that's why I love Sean (McDermott), we were able to work this through and he did a great job there. But it was it was a rollercoaster."
Physicians on Thursday said Hamlin was "demonstrating signs of good neurological recovery" but that it was too soon to comment on his long-term football prospects.
The frightening on-field incident prompted a massive outpouring of support from fans and the football community. Donations to an online toy drive fundraiser Hamlin launched in December 2020 skyrocketed in response, raising more than $7.8 million as of Friday.
The National Football League on Thursday said it would not resume the halted Bills-Bengals game despite the contest having postseason implications with both teams playoff bound.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Mark Porter and Bill Berkrot)