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NFLPA Medical Director: 'Damar Hamlin Will Play Football Again'

Feb 8, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin accepts the Alan Page Community Award during the NFLPA press conference at the Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Even though his Buffalo Bills are not the AFC's representative at this week's Super Bowl, there was still a very positive development for them and safety Damar Hamlin during the week leading up to the big game.

"I guarantee you that Damar Hamlin will play professional football again," NFLPA Medical Director Dr. Thom Mayer said in an interview on Sirius XM Wednesday.

Mayer's guarantee is welcome news to the entire NFL, which has followed and supported Hamlin's recovery since the second-year safety suffered cardiac arrest after making a tackle during the Buffalo's Week 17 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals. Since that event, Hamlin has progressed from being in critical condition in a Cincinnati hospital to returning home to Buffalo, where he continues his rehab.

Hamlin even recovered enough to return to the team's facility, and spoke with his teammates during the team's Divisional Round playoff game Jan. 22.

Mayer's words don't guarantee that Hamlin will be in full uniform leading the Bills out of the tunnel in Week 1 of the 2023 regular season, but they do offer a lot of hope that he will be able to return to football. Mayer has served in his role as the NFLPA's Medical Director since 2001, with more than two decades of experience helping NFL players recover from minor and severe injuries.

Hamlin has been able to travel more as he continued his rehab from the incident, and was actually in Glendale, Ariz. already. On Wednesday, Hamlin was named the NFLPA's Alan Page Community Award winner, and accepted the honor in person. It is the highest honor awarded by the players' union, and "recognizes one player who demonstrates a profound dedication to positively impacting his team's city and communities across the country."

Prior to entering the NFL, Hamlin set up the Chasing M's Foundation to support children in and near his native McKees Rocks, an area in western Pittsburgh. He began a GoFundMe to aid the foundation's toy drive, with a modest initial goal of $2,500. Following his injury, fans from around the world went to that page in support of Hamlin, and the fundraiser has now topped $9 million.

"Giving back to my community has always been a big part of who I am. I'm thankful to my father who's right here behind me, growing up watching him do community days in our community, and I just always was waiting on my time," Hamlin said in accepting the award. "One of my favorite quotes is 'It's a blessing to be a blessing.' With that being said, I plan to never take this position for granted, and always have an urgent approach in making a difference in the community where I come from, and also communities across the world.

In winning the award, the NFLPA will donate an additional $100,000 to Hamlin's foundation.

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