Damar Hamlin makes return on defense for Bills, records first tackle since last season's on-field cardiac arrest

Damar Hamlin's tackle of Adam Trautman was his first since he suffered cardiac arrest on the field last season. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

Damar Hamlin played defense Monday night for the first time in a regular-season game since leaving a January game in an ambulance after suffering cardiac arrest on the field.

The Buffalo Bills safety recorded his first tackle of the season after subbing in late in the fourth quarter of Buffalo’s 24-22 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Hamlin was activated Monday night for the second time this season. He made a prior appearance in Week 4 against the Miami Dolphins, but played strictly on special teams.

With Buffalo leading 22-21 late in the fourth quarter Monday, Hamlin took the place of safety Cam Lewis, who left the game with an injury after tackling Broncos running back Samaje Perine. The nature of Lewis’ injury wasn’t immediately clear.

It was a high-stakes situation with the Bills looking to halt a go-ahead Broncos drive in the final two minutes of the game. Three plays after entering the game, Hamlin made his first tackle.

On first-and-10 from the Buffalo 45-yard line, Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson threw to tight end Adam Trautman near the right sideline. Hamlin was in coverage and dove to wrap Trautman up, stopping him for a 6-yard gain.

The Broncos would go on to win the game with a late field goal. But Hamlin’s return and tackle marked another significant step in his recovery after it wasn’t clear if he would live, much less play football again after he collapsed on the field during a Jan. 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hamlin was resuscitated on the field and left the game in an ambulance for a Cincinnati hospital. With his condition at the time unclear, the NFL took the extraordinary step of suspending the late-season game between the AFC contenders.

After his initial recovery, Hamlin was transported to a Buffalo hospital, where he continued to receive treatment. Nine days after his collapse on the field, he was released from the Buffalo hospital and cleared to continue his rehabilitation at home and under the care of the Bills.

Prior to this season, he was cleared to return to football and made the Bills’ 53-man roster in August. Now, 2 1/2 months later, he’s seen his first defensive action and contact since last season’s medical emergency.

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