Damar Hamlin's doctors say he's 'making substantial progress,' 'beginning to awaken' after on-field collapse

The Buffalo Bills have been through a lot since Monday when their teammate Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field, but Thursday was full of positive news about his health and progress.

Hamlin's doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center have announced that there has been "substantial improvement in his condition over the past 24 hours." His "neurological condition and function is intact" and he's "beginning to awaken." He's opened his eyes and has been moving his hands and feet.

Hamlin continues to be critically ill and will remain in intensive care for the time being, but it was clear the doctors were encouraged by how he's been responding. They were made sure to mention that he "still has significant progress he needs to make," but his progress over the last 24 hours "marks a really good turning point in his ongoing care."

The physicians also said that Hamlin has been responsive to questions and commands, and has even been asking questions of his own. He’s still intubated and on a ventilator, so he hasn’t been able to speak, but he’s been writing questions with a pen and paper. One of the first things Hamlin wanted to know? Who won Monday night's game.

Several times during the news conference, the doctors made a point to say that the lightning-quick response from the Bills and Bengals doctors and medical personnel on the field saved Hamlin's life and preserved his neurological function. They were at his side less than one minute after he collapsed, gave him CPR immediately, shocked his heart, and continued to perform CPR on him, all of which was vital to keeping his heart going until he could be put on a ventilator.

The Bills shared a less-detailed version of the physicians' report on Thursday morning, revealing that Hamlin had sown "remarkable improvement." One of his teammates also tweeted that he was awake and showing more signs of improvement.

Bills to practice Thursday after call from Hamlin's father

The news about Hamlin's progress will undoubtedly give the entire team a boost before they reportedly practice Thursday for the first time since Hamlin collapsed on the field and went into cardiac arrest. That's a big step for them to take considering what they experienced Monday night, but even before the positive news about Hamlin was announced, the Bills got a call from a very special person.

According to multiple reports, Mario Hamlin, Damar's father, spoke to the Bills via Zoom on Wednesday. He told the players that Damar, who remains in critical condition in the ICU at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, has been "making progress."

Hearing from Mario was reportedly "emotional," but it helped "calm" everyone down and was something the team "needed."

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is showing signs of improvement after suffering cardiac arrest Monday. (AP Photo/John McCoy)
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is showing signs of improvement after suffering cardiac arrest Monday. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

Hamlin was injured during the first quarter of the Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. After taking a hit directly to the chest while tackling wide receiver Tee Higgins, Hamlin at first got up, but he almost immediately collapsed back down to the ground.

The Bills later said that Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field. The paramedics who rushed over had to restart his stopped heart and then administer CPR for nearly 10 minutes before he could be loaded into an ambulance, which had driven right onto the field, and taken to the hospital.

The 15 minutes that elapsed between Hamlin's injury and the ambulance driving away were chaotic and emotional. Bills players had come onto the field to support their teammate, and many were openly crying as they watched Hamlin receive life-saving CPR. Once the game was postponed, Bills head coach Sean McDermott and multiple players went to the hospital to be with Hamlin.

The team reportedly didn't get back to Buffalo until 2:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, and no official activities were held that day. The Bills came back together Wednesday for meetings and a walkthrough, as they still have a game to play against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

After going through such an emotionally fraught few days, hearing from Mario Hamlin and getting a positive update about Damar will only help the Bills as they get back to business.