KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes honored injured Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin with a customized hoodie during warmups Saturday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
As Kansas City prepared to take on the Raiders in the 2022 season finale, Mahomes donned a red Chiefs hoodie with the name “DAMAR” inside a blue heart on the front and a picture of Hamlin with the words “HAMLIN STRONG” on the back.
“You just want to be there for him,” Mahomes said. “There’s so much stuff bigger than football that was in your mind.”
Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and several other Chiefs players, including recent touchdown machine Jerick McKinnon, also wore shirts supporting Hamlin before the game.
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, tight end Travis Kelce and safety Bryan Cook also were among the throng of players wearing "Love for Damar 3" shirts.
Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after tackling Cincinnati wide receiver Tee Higgins during the first quarter of a Bills-at-Bengals showdown on Monday Night Football from Paycor Stadium.
Denny Kellington, an assistant trainer for Buffalo, performed CPR on the field, and an automated external defibrillator, or AED, was used to restart Hamlin’s heart before he was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Hamlin, 24, a native of Pittsburgh, was sedated and intubated for the first few days, but he awakened Thursday and began communicating with medical staff and family, according to his doctors.
By Friday morning, Hamlin’s breathing tube had been removed and he was speaking on his own, including to teammates via video call.
Hamlin's injury and status certainly was on the Chiefs' minds before the game, which was the NFL's first since the incident Monday.
“It was definitely weird, man,” Mahomes said. “It’s a game that you love — a game that you loved, and you’ve played it your entire life. You’ve had so many great moments and it’s brought so many great things to you. But obviously, with the situation that happened on Monday night with Damar, you still have that in the back of your mind.”
For Mahomes, it wasn’t even the injury and the risk all players at all levels assume when stepping on the field, but everything else that is at risk. That was a challenge for many players to compartmentalize after Hamlin's injury.
“It could have been one of my brothers that I played with,” defensive lineman Chris Jones said. “I definitely was affected emotionally. Going into this game with this being the first game that was played since that incident happened, it was heavy on my heart.”
Jones called it “tremendous” that he’s talking to family and teammates again.
“It helped out a lot that he was able to make that video, even though I didn’t see it, where he was able to talk to his teammate again, and everything’s looking great,” Mahomes said.
That allowed Mahomes to engage with the fun aspects of the game again.
“It gives you that little bit of that final thing of, ‘All right, this is what we’re supposed to be doing; we’re supposed to go out there and give joy to not only us, but the rest of the world watching us,’” he said.
The NFL plans league-wide tributes to Hamlin during Week 18’s games.
The Allegiant Stadium PA announcer acknowledged Hamlin and the difficult week for the NFL during a pregame address, which drew loud cheers from the crowd.
Several Raiders players also honored Hamlin before the game.
The cancellation of the Bills-Bengals game had a significant impact on the AFC playoff picture, including giving the Chiefs a chance to clinch the top seed and a first-round bye with a win at the Raiders.