Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was selected as the Pro Football Writers of America 2023 Comeback Player of the Year, and has also been named a finalist for the 2023 Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year.
Bills safety Damar Hamlin has been selected as Comeback Player of the Year by @PFWAwriters.— Alaina Getzenberg (@agetzenberg) January 26, 2024
By now, Hamlin’s story is well understood with Bills Mafia and football fans the world over. In the immediate aftermath of Hamlin suffering from cardiac arrest during the first quarter of a road game against the Cincinnati Bengals last season (January 3, 2023), most wondered if he’d play professional football again, let alone make it through the night.
As we now know, Hamlin not only survived — he made a full recovery from what far more people now understand to be commotio cordis. With that full recovery came the opportunity to resume his football career, and the chance to continue his role as a reserve safety and special teams player for the Bills. Defying the odds, Hamlin returned in full to play NFL football 10 months after cardiac arrest, when he made his season debut at home against the Miami Dolphins.
As a reserve with the team, ultimately there were far more weeks where Hamlin was made inactive due to a healthy safety room. Despite limited opportunity, Hamlin did manage to play in five regular-season games and both of Buffalo’s two postseason matchups.
In those seven games, Hamlin made four tackles on defense, and allowed one completion for six yards on one target. He added one ill-fated carry for two yards in the playoffs, when the Bills’ special teams decided to audible to a fake punt against a Kansas City Chiefs return unit fielding just 10 players.
As a defender, Damar Hamlin played 17 snaps (5% of team total), adding 94 snaps (65% of team total) on special teams.
For many, Hamlin simply stepping back onto the gridiron after surviving such a traumatic life-altering event will forever be among the most significant of stories told in the NFL.
The question is if Hamlin’s journey back to the NFL will see him earn the 2023 AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year. That, as well all additional awards, will be announced during the 13th annual NFL Honors ceremony on February 8, 2023. This year’s Honors show will air live on CBS and NFL Network, and stream on Paramount+ and NFL+.