NFL's Hamlin shows 'remarkable improvement' after cardiac arrest

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has shown "remarkable improvement" and is awake and communicating, three days after suffering cardiac arrest during an NFL game, the team and doctors said Thursday.

"It's not only that the lights are on, but we know that he's home," doctor Timothy Pritts of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said in a video news conference.

"It appears that all cylinders are firing within his brain."

Hamlin remains in critical condition on a ventilator and is unable to speak, but he has been able to communicate in writing, Pritts said.

When the 24-year-old player first woke up, he asked whether the Bills won Monday's game against the Bengals in Cincinnati -- a contest that was called off after Hamlin's terrifying collapse and subsequent efforts to revive him on the field.

"The answer is yes, Damar, you won the game of life," Pritts said.

Doctor William Knight credited the "really outstanding" response by medical staff at the game with saving Hamlin's life.

"It's been a long and difficult road for the last three days," Knight said, adding that Hamlin "has made a pretty remarkable improvement."

He said further testing would be necessary, when Hamlin is able, to determine what caused the cardiac arrest.

At the moment, both doctors said, the main focus is on weaning Hamlin from the ventilator.

"We're focused on the right-now," Knight said. "He still has a ways to go in terms of liberation from the ventilator.

"It's entirely too early to speculate about the future," Knight added, in answer to numerous questions from reporters about the long-term prognosis for Hamlin.

However, he did say that the "best case" scenario would be a return to "who he was before this happened."

Knight added, again in response to questions, that it was "entirely too early" to discuss whether Hamlin can play football again.

- Good turning point -

Knight and Pritts said family and Bills teammates had been at Hamlin's side since Monday.

"He's held many peoples' hands," Knight said, with Pritts adding that Hamlin was "very interactive with them."

"He still has significant progress he needs to make, but this makes a good turning point in his ongoing care," Pritts said.

Hamlin, a defensive back, collapsed after taking a hard hit in the chest while tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins during the first quarter of the nationally televised game in Cincinnati.

Medical staff who found he didn't have a pulse restored Hamlin's heartbeat on the field using manual cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and defibrillators, and he was hospitalized in critical condition.

The frightening scenes left players and personnel from both teams clearly stunned, with some crying and praying as doctors treated him.

As of Thursday afternoon, it was not yet clear if the NFL would attempt to conclude the game at a later date.

An outpouring of concern saw fans gathering outside the Bills' home stadium to hold a prayer vigil for Hamlin, while people around the country have donated millions of dollars to a toy drive that Hamlin had organized.

Pritts said Thursday that fans had also congregated near the hospital in Cincinnati, with some sending food to Hamlin's family members and hospital staff.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said he had spoken at length with Hamlin's parents and told reporters when asked about the NFL that "... it is dangerous. We've got to just acknowledge it."

NFL players returned to workouts on Wednesday ahead of the final weekend of regular season games, with the New England Patriots set to visit the Bills on Sunday.

"We're all handling it in different ways," Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins said.

bb/sst