Damar Hamlin has breathing tube removed, FaceTimes with Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin had his breathing tube removed and has begun talking with his care team, family and teammates.

That included coach Sean McDermott surprising the team with Hamlin on a Zoom call during a team meeting Friday morning. On the call, Hamlin told teammates, "Love ya boys."

Hamlin's breathing tube was removed overnight, per the physicians at University of Cincinnati Medical Center in a statement via the Bills, and he continues to "progress remarkably in his recovery." His neurological function remains intact, according to the physicians.

McDermott attempted to surprise the team by telling them he had a "treat in store." When Hamlin popped up on the screen, the players stood up right away, per McDermott, clapped and yelled some things to him. Left tackle Dion Dawkins, however, said the coach gave away the big news with the way he walked into the room.

"He's a very straightforward guy, and the amount of expression that he walked into the team room with, you already knew. If you're smiling like this, and you have a nice little walk, Sean McDermott, it's only one thing that you could be that happy for," Dawkins said.

McDermott said he probably wouldn't be able to do it justice, how uplifting seeing Hamlin was, but described it as "amazing" and "touching."

"The thing that makes me laugh is he did this to the guys right away ... he flexed on them, I guess," McDermott said. "He's just got some staple things that they know him for, that he does. He made the heart symbol [with his hands] probably more than anything. Then he gave them a thumbs up. And then somewhere in the midst of that, it was a little bit hard to hear, but he said, 'I love you boys.' And of course, that got the guys."

On Thursday, doctors shared with reporters that removing the breathing tube would be an important step forward for Hamlin, 24, who they hope can return home with his family as soon as possible.

CPR was administered to Hamlin on the field Monday night for multiple minutes after he collapsed following his tackle of Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin received oxygen, according to the ESPN broadcast, as he was placed in the ambulance and taken off the field. He was driven to the hospital, where he has remained.

Dr. William Knight IV credited the quick medical response with saving Hamlin's life. He said a physician was by Hamlin's side within a minute of him collapsing and recognized that the defensive back did not have a pulse. Knight said Hamlin required CPR and resuscitation on the field.

There is no definitive answer to what caused Hamlin's cardiac arrest.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane was at the hospital with Hamlin and his family from Monday night through Thursday, along with other members of the Bills staff including head athletic trainer Nate Breske and assistant athletic trainer Tabani Richards, who remains with Hamlin. Beane decided to stay in Cincinnati, as he thought it was what he would want someone to do for his son. McDermott and many players wanted to stay as well, but not everyone could be there.

With Hamlin's health continuing to move in a positive direction, talking to Hamlin was what the group "needed," per Dawkins. The Bills will play a home game against the New England Patriots on Sunday in a season of unexpected challenges for the team and city of Buffalo, but the adversity has brought the close team even tighter together.

"Definitely not the way you draw it up," Beane said. "I don't know what's gonna happen the rest of the season on the field, I really don't. This is a group of winners, and I will forever remember this team, this season, the moments of it. I'm still hopefully optimistic that we can make a run. But I don't know if there's ever a team I'll be more proud of than this."

During warm-ups, all players throughout the league will have the option to wear black Nike t-shirts displaying "Love for Damar 3." During warm-ups in Buffalo, Bills players will wear a similar Nike shirt but in the team's royal blue. Hats with "3" on them will be provided to Buffalo football personnel to wear during warm-ups.

The Bills will also be wearing "3" patches on their jerseys.

The team is also working through ways and plans to honor first responders and team trainers Sunday. Teams throughout the league will also take part in honoring Hamlin. All clubs (home and away) may outline the "3" in each 30-yard-line number on the field in a Bills color.

"It's going to be a celebration of life and an ongoing life," Beane said of the game. "Just a celebration that this is not only going to be a celebration in Buffalo but the whole country and I'm sure people internationally that have watched this situation. I'm sure it's going to be a great seat if you've got a ticket to come here and just to be a part of this atmosphere. The hair on the back of my neck is standing up right now thinking about it.

"... It will be a challenge for our team to be able to manage the emotions. There are going to be tears out there, and that will be more of a challenge than the X's and O's piece of it."

Also on Friday, the Bills officially placed Hamlin on injured reserve and activated CB Christian Benford off IR in a corresponding move..

Information from ESPN's Tom VanHaaren was used in this report.