Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has thanked fans for their “overwhelming” love when he posted on social media for the first time since suffering cardiac arrest in an NFL game on Monday.
The Bills have said Hamlin, 24, is making “continued progress” yet remains in a “critical condition”.
The Las Vegas Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs showed support for Hamlin in the first game since his collapse.
Players wore ‘Love for Damar 3’ T-shirts during their warm-ups.
Hamlin, who collapsed on the field during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals, wrote on Instagram: “When you put real love out into the world it comes back to you three times as much.
“The love has been overwhelming, but I’m thankful for every single person that prayed for me and reached out.
“If you know me you know this is only going to make me stronger. On a long road – keep praying for me.”
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes wore a top with a graphic of the Bills player and ‘Hamlin strong’ written on it before their final regular season game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Hamlin’s name and his number – three – was displayed on screens inside and outside the stadium, while the ‘3’ on the 30-yard mark had a painted blue outline, as it is one of the Bills’ colors.
The Chiefs won 31–13 to secure the top seed in the American Football Conference and a first-round bye in the play-offs.
They end the regular season with a 14-3 record and are looking for their third Super Bowl appearance in four seasons.
“This week it’s been hard for a lot of guys,” said Mahomes.
“But to have him being able to talk and be able to be with his family, it gave us that motivation that we can come out here and still enjoy this game that we all love.
“Hopefully, he can continue to get better and better and know that we are all still praying for him. We all send love to him and hopefully he is back on the field sooner rather than later.”
In Saturday’s win, Mahomes set a new NFL record of 5,608 total yards for the season, surpassing Drew Brees’ mark of 5,562 from 2011 with the New Orleans Saints.
Elsewhere, the Jacksonville Jaguars clinched their first play-off berth since the 2017 season with a 20–16 victory over the Tennessee Titans to win the AFC South.
That game, like all in the NFL this weekend, showed support for Hamlin, with players wearing T-shirts, fans holding banners, the number three painted on the field and ‘pray for Damar 3’ shown on the big screen prior to kick- off.
The Bills will wear number three patches on their jerseys when they host the New England Patriots on Sunday in their first game since Hamlin collapsed against the Bengals in Ohio.
Hamlin has had his breathing tube removed and in a tweet the Bills cited his doctors by saying his neurologic function remains intact and that he has been able to talk to his family and care team.
The NFL canceled the Bills’ game against the Bengals in the wake of the incident.
NFL owners subsequently approved changes to the AFC play-off structure given the outcome of the game would have affected play-off seedings, with both sides already having secured post-season spots.
The Bills and Bengals will have their post-season positions determined by their winning percentage over their completed 16 games – instead of the full 17 – after the final round of games take place this weekend.
The AFC Championship game could be played at a neutral site if the home team ordinarily would have been decided by the result of the canceled game between the Bengals and Bills.
Hamlin, who has been in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, joined a meeting with his team via Facetime on Friday and said “Love you, boys”.
He suffered cardiac arrest after tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin fell on his back to the ground after the collision and received more than 30 minutes of on-the-field medical care, during which he was resuscitated once, according to the player’s friend and marketing agent Jordon Rooney.
Support for the second-year Bills player has poured in since the accident.
A GoFundMe page for a toy drive launched by Hamlin has amassed more than $7m (£5.9m).
Several NFL players have donated to the cause, including Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson.
Hamlin was drafted to the NFL in 2021 from the University of Pittsburgh, where he played college football.