Bills prepare for emotional game after Hamlin collapse
The Buffalo Bills host the New England Patriots on Sunday, six days after Damar Hamlin's terrifying on-field collapse shook the NFL — and America — to its core.
Why it matters: This will be one of the most emotional games in NFL history. And with Hamlin showing significant improvement, it will be a "celebration of life," says Bills general manager Brandon Beane.
- "There's going to be tears out there," Beane said. "That will be more of the challenge than the X's and O's."
The latest: The Bills announced Friday that Hamlin had been taken off a breathing tube and was talking with his family and doctors.
- Hamlin also FaceTimed his teammates, telling them: "Love you guys."
The big picture: Almost 240,000 people have donated over $8 million to Hamlin's fundraiser for a Pittsburgh-area toy drive — a way to show him love and support.
- Sunday — the NFL's regular-season finale — will provide another opportunity to do that.
- The Bills will wear special "3" jersey patches for Hamlin, and NFL teams will honor him at stadiums across the country.
State of play: The game itself carries major AFC playoff implications. It will impact Buffalo's seeding, and the Patriots would clinch a wild-card spot with a win.
What they're saying: Hamlin's father, Mario, told Bills players that his son wants them to "charge forward to the best of our abilities," according to Buffalo QB Josh Allen.
- "To know that's what he wants, that's what his dad wants, I think guys are excited," said Allen.
- "We want to go out there and play for 3," he added. "It'll be a huge driving force."
The bottom line: The final score of the Bills-Patriots game matters — quite a lot — for both teams. But in the grand scheme of things, it's much bigger than football.