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Bills speak publicly for first time since Damar Hamlin hospitalization, share relief at teammate's improved condition

Bills head coach Sean McDermott, quarterback Josh Allen, cornerback Dane Jackson and center Mitch Morse spoke publicly for the first time on Thursday since safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest during Monday's game.

The four described a sense of relief and optimism upon hearing the news from earlier Thursday that Hamlin, who has been hospitalized at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center since Monday, has had substantial improvement in his condition.

"This press conference is about Damar Hamlin, whom we love," McDermott began, while thanking a number of people involved in Hamlin's care. "It's about his parents, Mario and Nina, and their extended family. We continue to pray for them during this time, and Damar is and remains our No. 1 concern. ... The amount of faith, hope and love that we saw on display over the last three days has been nothing short of amazing."

Allen described the emotional moments on Monday night and level of fear he and his teammates had after Hamlin collapsed onto the field and received CPR before being transported via ambulance to the UCMC.

"I don't typically like using emotion to answer questions, but the scene just replays over and over in your head," Allen said. "It's hard to answer that question and actually describe how I felt, how my teammates felt in that moment. It's something we'll never forget, but know that Damar is doing OK. Lot of things and stuff that he has to process and continue to go through to get back to himself. Again, we heard that news this morning, and there's nothing that could've been told to us to bring our day down. We're extremely happy for him and his family. We just want to love up on him. So, the next chance we get, I don't know when it's gonna be. If we get to see him anytime soon, it's gonna be awesome."

Like Bengals coach Zac Taylor did on Wednesday, Allen commended McDermott's leadership from Monday night.

"The way he handled it, he was the perfect man to handle that type of situation," Allen said. "I can't say enough about what he did, what he said to us in the locker room. Obviously just a dire circumstance that nobody's expecting, nobody's ready for. There's nothing you can train about. You can never put yourself in that situation until it happens. I want to thank our training staff for going out there not knowing what's going on, but going through a checklist, working as a single cell and saving his life."

Allen continued: "Being on that field. You lose sleep. You hurt for your brother. A lot of shared grief. But to the question before, getting updates -- and positive updates -- eases so much of that pain and tension that you feel. But coach handled it as perfect as anybody could."

Jackson, who has known Hamlin since they were kids and was his college teammate at Pittsburgh, said of his friend: "He's a fighter. A warrior. An encourager ... just thinking about him makes me smile.

The Bills held a walkthrough practice on Wednesday and a full session on Thursday. Morse said it was "therapeutic" to return to football activities, while acknowledging "emotions might be delayed. Emotions might be processed at different times, and that's OK."

The Bills are scheduled to host the New England Patriots on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, and both McDermott and Allen said they think the team is ready to play. Both cited Thursday's news of Hamlin's improvement, as well as a message from Hamlin's father, Mario Hamlin, who said Damar would want them to press forward.

"Damar's father spoke to the team and really his message was: The team needs to get back to focusing on the goals that they had set for themselves," McDermott said. "Damar would've wanted it that way. And I'm paraphrasing. And so, that includes our game against New England this week. And I think that has helped, and then again the news today, as Josh alluded to, was a big help to getting us back to focused on the game this weekend."

Allen was emphatic in his response.

"Mario talking to us as a team and the things that he kind of told us, and, really (he) didn't tell us, he demanded us," Allen said. "You can't not honor his request to go out there and charge forward to the best of our abilities. And, obviously, we'll be playing with, I guess less heavy hearts now. Knowing that today's news was a lot of tears of joy, I'll tell you that. But to know that that's what [Damar] wants. That's what his dad wants. I think guys are excited to get out there."

"We want to play for Three," Allen said.

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