Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was released from an Ohio hospital Monday, saying he's "grateful" for the care he received since collapsing and nearly dying last week during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Hamlin was transferred to a hospital in Buffalo, New York, to continue his recovery, one week after the medical incident unfolded on "Monday Night Football" before millions of television viewers.
“I traveled with him to the airport this morning with our UC Health air care and mobile care crew, including teammates who were with us on the field when Damar Hamlin collapsed,” said Dr. William Knight IV, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Knight added that Hamlin “still has a little bit of a ways to go in terms of his ongoing recovery.”
Hamlin walked his first lap Friday, after his breathing tube was removed that morning.
"He’s certainly on what we consider a very normal to even accelerated trajectory from the life-threatening event that he underwent, but is making great progress,” said Dr. Timothy Pritts, division chief of general surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and vice chair for clinical operations at UC Health.
Hamlin tweeted his own message on Monday afternoon: "Grateful for the awesome care I received at UCMC. Happy to be back in Buffalo. The docs and nurses at Buffalo General have already made me feel at home!"
Knight called Hamlin’s release “probably the most awesome discharge from our hospital that we’ve had in a long time.”
Doctors said the decision to send Hamlin to Buffalo came after his condition improved from what they considered “critical” to “fair or good” on Monday morning.
That means his organ systems were stable and improving, and he no longer needed intensive nursing care or respiratory therapy.
The Bills said on Friday that Hamlin was able to talk to his family and care team and FaceTimed into a team meeting, telling his fellow players: “Love you boys.”
His condition continued to improve over the weekend, according to UC Health. Hamlin live tweeted reactions on Sunday to the Bills’ game against the New England Patriots.
When his teammate Nyheim Hines ran back the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, Hamlin jumped up and down, doctors said, and accidentally set off alarms in the ICU.
Hamlin, 24, in his second NFL season, has been the target of unwavering support of football fans since undergoing cardiac arrest in the first quarter of last week’s “Monday Night Football” game at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.
He made what appeared to be a routine tackle before going limp and falling backward.
On-field medical staff rushed to Hamlin and administered CPR before he was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he was treated until his departure on Monday.
It is still unclear whether the tackle contributed to Hamlin’s cardiac arrest.
Doctors at the University of Cincinnati said last week that they were considering whether Hamlin may have experienced “commotio cordis,” a rare phenomenon in which blunt force to the chest can cause a healthy heart to stop beating during a narrow window of the cardiac cycle.
In their Monday update, the medical team said Hamlin will most likely need to undergo tests and evaluations to determine what caused the incident.
The doctors in Cincinnati also declined to say if Hamlin has any future in pro football, or if it would be safe for him to attend a game at this early stage of his recovery.
"We think that he will recover well from this," Pritts said. "He has a great, positive attitude."
Last week's game was initially postponed and then canceled, leaving the Bills and Bengals — both considered leading Super Bowl contenders — having played 16 games instead of the 17 all other NFL teams have.
The Bills, who beat the New England Patriots in an emotion-filled game in Orchard Park, New York, on Sunday, finished 13-3, a half-game behind the Kansas City Chiefs (14-3) for the AFC's No. 1 seed.
The Bills held a standing ovation for Hamlin before the game, and his jersey number, No. 3, was outlined in blue on the 30-yard line. The crowd also cheered for the medical and athletic training staff who helped save Hamlin’s life.
Had the Bills won last week's game in Cincinnati and finished with an equal 14-3 record, Buffalo would have had the playoff's top spot and a first-round bye.
Under normal circumstances, if the Nos. 1 and 2 teams meet in the conference title game, the top seed would get to host.
But given the unprecedented turn of events in Cincinnati last week, NFL owners agreed that a potential Kansas City-Buffalo AFC title game should be held at a neutral site and not at the Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium, which is considered one of the most hostile home fields in football.