Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin made the cut.
Some eight months after a near-death experience during a game at Cincinnati, Hamlin’s fearless bid to resume his football career approached completion on Tuesday when he made the team after the Bills pared their roster to 53 players.
Though general manager Brandon Beane has stressed changes could still be made to the roster before the Bills open their season at the New York Jets on Sept. 11, what’s undeniable is the courage Hamlin has shown in reaching this milestone of his comeback by reclaiming a backup role behind starters Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.
What began as a national theme of “Prayers For Hamlin” has turned to praise for Hamlin, who put aside hints of trepidation in each step of his recovery.
It’s a journey that’s taken the 25-year-old from being placed in a medically induced coma after going into cardiac arrest and needing to be resuscitated on the field, to returning to the turf to take and deliver hits at full speed during practice and three pre-season game appearances in one of North America’s most violent professional sport.
“I made the choice that I wanted to play, you know, it wasn’t nobody else’s choice but mine,” Hamlin said of his approach after a three-tackle outing in Buffalo’s pre-season-opening win against Indianapolis three weeks ago. “So, when you see my cleats laced up and my helmet and shoulder pads on, there ain’t gonna be no hesitation.”
‘Life coming full circle for me’
A week later in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Hamlin was selected to take the field as a captain for the coin flip before the Bills’ game against the Steelers.
“It was real special, like a moment of serendipity, just like life coming full circle for me,” he said following the game in which finished with three more tackles. “It’s just something indescribable.”
Overall, Hamlin finished the pre-season with nine solo tackles and one assist while playing 80 defensive snaps and 19 more on special teams.
Coach Sean McDermott all but assured Hamlin’s place on the roster was secure two weeks ago by saying the player had little more to prove.
Now the question is how much more playing time he’ll get in returning to a backup role. Hamlin’s extensive playing experience in his second NFL season last year — he had 13 starts — was the result of him filling in after Hyde sustained a season-ending neck injury.
However little or much playing time he sees against the Jets, Hamlin’s recovery will have come full circle in prime-time settings. He was hurt on a Monday night broadcast, and the Bills open on a Monday night in what should be an emotionally charged setting honoring the 22nd anniversary of 9-11.
Hamlin has approached each step of his recovery — from being discharged from the hospital on Jan. 11 to news of doctors clearing him to resume practicing in late April to his first padded practice on July 31 — by focusing on one moment at a time.
Vulnerability, strength, perseverance
To peek too far ahead, he said, would be emotionally overwhelming. At the same time, Hamlin’s not been one to look back, either, while dealing with the nationwide attention he’s attracted.
“I honestly would love to do this whole process under a rock, getting myself together and then pop back out when I feel like my best,” Hamlin once said. “But I think there’s strength in going through a process in front of everybody’s eyes. It shows vulnerability and shows strength, shows perseverance, and that’s things I would love to stand for.”
Backup quarterback Matt Barkley was placed on injured reserve after he hurt his right throwing elbow in a pre-season game at Pittsburgh, leaving Kyle Allen as starter Josh Allen’s lone backup. The Bills cut linebacker A.J. Klein, who was competing for the starting middle linebacker job, and veteran long-snapper Reid Ferguson. Klein and Ferguson are candidates to be re-signed by Buffalo.
The Bills also freed up a logjam at defensive end by trading Boogie Basham and a 2025 seventh-round draft pick to the New York Giants for a 2025 sixth-round pick.
Canadians Jared Wayne, Nathan Rourke waived
The wait continues for the Toronto Argonauts.
Canadian receiver Jared Wayne was reportedly waived Tuesday by the Houston Texans on Tuesday as NFL teams finalized their 53-man rosters ahead of the regular season. Wayne had a 19-yard reception during the pre-season.
If a team selects Wayne, it would have to move him on to its 53-man roster. Should Wayne clear waivers, then he’d be an NFL free agent and able to join any team’s practice roster.
On Monday, the Jacksonville Jaguars waived quarterback Nathan Rourke, of Victoria. Rourke was the CFL’s top Canadian last season with the B.C. Lions.
And on Saturday the Detroit Lions released veteran Canadian defensive lineman Christin Covington, 29, of Vancouver. The six-foot-two, 305-pound Covington — the son of Canadian Football Hall of Fame defensive end Grover Covington — is an eight-year NFL veteran, having appeared in 102 games with the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers.
The B.C. Lions own Covington’s CFL rights.
Wayne had 146 catches for 2,308 yards and 13 touchdowns in 41 games at the University of Pittsburgh. The Canadian had 60 receptions for 1,063 yards and five TD last season as the school’s top receiver.
Other Canadians or former CFL players released include:
— Tight end Nikola Kalinic by the Los Angeles Rams. The six-foot-four, 253-pound Toronto native began his pro career with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2019, 2021) before joining the Indianapolis Colts last year. He was waived May 4 before signing with the Rams on July 14.
— Former CFL rush end Shane Ray was released after reaching an injury settlement with the Buffalo Bills. Ray, a ’15 first-round pick by the Broncos, spent last season with the Grey Cup-champion Toronto Argonauts before signing with Buffalo in the off-season.
Ray suffered a hamstring injury in a pre-season contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Aug. 19.
— Kicker Brett Maher, who spent time in the CFL with Ottawa and Hamilton, was let go by the Denver Broncos. Maher played for the Dallas Cowboys last year but missed four straight converts in the NFC wildcard game versus Tampa Bay, becoming the first player in league history to miss that many.
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