Safety Damar Hamlin joins the Bills 53-man squad 8 months after near-death experience | CBC sports

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin made the cut.

Some eight months after a near-death experience during a game in Cincinnati, Hamlin's fearless attempt to pursue his football career neared completion Tuesday when he made the team after the Bills reduced their roster to 53 players.

Although general manager Brandon Beane has stressed that roster changes could still be made before the Bills begin their season with the New York Jets on September 11, there is no denying the courage Hamlin displayed in reaching this milestone achieved his comeback by getting a reinforcement role behind starters Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.

Other notable news from the Bills is that edge-rusher Von Miller will miss at least the first four games and continues to recover from a torn ligament in his right knee after being placed on the reserve/incapacitated list.

What began as a nationwide theme of “prayers for Hamlin” has blossomed into praise for Hamlin, who put aside signs of concern at every step of his recovery.

It's a journey that took the 25-year-old from being placed in an induced coma after suffering cardiac arrest and needing to be resuscitated on the pitch, to returning to the pitch to hit full-speed shots in practice and the third practice session performing and delivering pre-season game appearances in one of North America's most violent professional sports.

“I made the decision that I wanted to play, you know, it was none other than my decision,” Hamlin said of his approach after a three-way effort in Buffalo's preseason opener win over Indianapolis three weeks ago. “So once you see my boots laced up and my helmet and shoulder pads on, there will be no hesitation.”

“For me, life has come full circle”

A week later, in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Hamlin was selected to captain the coin toss before the Bills vs. Steelers game.

“It was something very special, like a lucky coincidence, like my life was coming full circle,” he said after the game, which ended with three more tackles. “It's just something indescribable.”

Overall, Hamlin finished preseason with nine solo tackles and one assist while playing 80 defensive snaps and 19 more on special teams.

Manager Sean McDermott almost reassured Hamlin two weeks ago that his place in the squad was secured, saying the player had little more to prove.

“From my non-medical standpoint, I think he ticked all the boxes in that regard,” McDermott said. “There was just enough rehearsals where you say he performed well and came out healthy.”

The question now is how much more playing time will he gain by returning to the backup role. Hamlin's extensive playing experience in his second NFL season last year — he had 13 starts — was due to him filling in after Hyde picked up a season-ending neck injury.

However little or much playing time he sees against the Jets, by prime time Hamlin's recovery will have come full circle. He was injured in a Monday night broadcast, and the Bills open on a Monday night in what is otherwise an emotionally charged atmosphere in honor of the 22nd anniversary of 9/11.

Hamlin has approached every step of his recovery – from being discharged from hospital on January 11, to the news that doctors allowed him to resume practice in late April, to his first padded practice on July 31 – by embracing himself focused on one moment at a time.

Vulnerability, Strength, Endurance

Looking too far ahead, he said, would be emotionally overwhelming. At the same time, Hamlin wasn't the type to look back either while grappling with the national attention he'd garnered.

“Honestly, I'd love to do this whole process under a rock, pull myself together, and then come out when I'm feeling my best,” Hamlin once said. “But I think there is power in going through a process in front of everyone. It shows vulnerability and strength, shows endurance, and those are things I would like to stand up for.”

Backup quarterback Matt Barkley was placed on injury reserve after injuring his right throwing arm in a preseason game in Pittsburgh, leaving Kyle Allen as the only replacement for starter Josh Allen. The Bills eliminated linebacker AJ Klein, who was vying for the starting middle linebacker spot, and veteran long snapper Reid Ferguson. Klein and Ferguson are candidates for a Buffalo re-signing.

The Bills also broke a defensive deadlock by trading Boogie Basham and a 2025 seventh-round draft pick for a 2025 sixth-round draft pick to the New York Giants.

Canadians Jared Wayne and Nathan Rourke opted out

The wait for the Toronto Argonauts continues.

Canadian receiver Jared Wayne was reportedly fired by the Houston Texans Tuesday as NFL teams finalized their 53-man rosters ahead of the regular season. Wayne had a 19-yard reception in preseason.

Wayne signed with the Texans as an undrafted free agent before being picked in the second round, No. 16 overall, by the Argos in the 2023 CFL draft. Toronto made the selection knowing they would have to wait for the 1.8m tall, 100kg Wayne, who hails from Peterborough, Ontario.

If a team picks Wayne, they would have to add him to their 53-man roster. If Wayne approves the waivers, he would be an NFL free agent and eligible to join any team's practice roster.

On Monday, the Jacksonville Jaguars were without Victoria quarterback Nathan Rourke. Rourke was the top Canadian in the CFL last season with the BC Lions.

A male soccer player throws a ball in the middle of a game.
The CFL's top Canadian last season with the BC Lions, Victoria's Nathan Rourke, was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Tuesday. Above, he's in action with the NFL team during pre-season. (Rich Story/Getty Images)

And on Saturday, the Detroit Lions released veteran Canadian defensive lineman Christin Covington, 29, from Vancouver. The 6-foot-1, 305-pound Covington — the son of Canadian Football Hall of Fame defensive end Grover Covington — is an eight-year NFL veteran who appeared in 102 games for the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles is Angeles Chargers.

The BC Lions own Covington's CFL rights.

Wayne had 146 catches for 2,308 yards and 13 touchdowns in 41 games at the University of Pittsburgh. The Canadian had 60 receptions for 1,063 yards and five touchdowns last season as the school's top receiver.

Other released Canadians or former CFL players include:

  • Toronto cornerback Tevaughn Campbell, by Jacksonville. Campbell, 30, has played in the NFL with the New York Jets (2019), Los Angeles Chargers (2020-2022), Las Vegas Raiders (2022), and Jaguars (2022). He was previously in the CFL with Calgary (2015), Saskatchewan (2016-2017) and Montreal (2017-18).
  • Los Angeles Rams tight end Nikola Kalinic. The 6'1″ and 253-pound Toronto native began his professional career with the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2019, 2021) before joining the Indianapolis Colts last year. He was released on May 4 before signing with the Rams on July 14.
  • Ottawa safety Jonathan Sutherland has been fired by the Seattle Seahawks because of an injury. The former Penn State star signed with Seattle as an undrafted free agent. The Montreal Alouettes selected Sutherland fifth overall in the 2023 CFL draft in the first round.
  • The Minnesota Vikings did without outside linebacker Luiji Vilain from Ottawa. Vilain signed as an undrafted free agent with the Vikings last year and featured in three games. Toronto owns Vilain's CFL rights after picking him in the third round of the 2021 draft.
  • Former CFL rush end Shane Ray was released after reaching an injury agreement with the Buffalo Bills. Ray, a 15-round Broncos pick, spent last season with the Gray Cup champion Toronto Argonauts before signing with Buffalo for the offseason. Ray suffered a hamstring injury on August 19 in a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Kicker Brett Maher, who spent time in the CFL with Ottawa and Hamilton, was fired by the Denver Broncos. Maher played for the Dallas Cowboys last year but missed four straight conversions in the NFC wildcard game against Tampa Bay, becoming the first player in league history to miss that many.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles are without American offensive lineman Julian Good-Jones. The 1.80 meter tall and 140 kilogram Good-Jones spent the previous two seasons with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.
  • Linebacker Samuel Eguavoen has been fired by the New York Jets. He signed with New York earlier this month after spending four seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Equavoen joined the NFL after three seasons with the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders.

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