Bills uplifted by Hamlin’s recovery, place focus on Patriots

Jan 6, 2023, 1:07 AM | Updated: 5:28 pm
Crews clear snow from a parking lot near a sign showing support for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Haml...

Crews clear snow from a parking lot near a sign showing support for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin outside Highmark Stadium on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

(AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

              Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, left, shakes hands with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the Dolphins 23-21. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
              New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) prepares to take the snap against the Miami Dolphins first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
              Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen speaks with the media, Thursday Jan. 5, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Bills safety Damar Hamlin was taken to the hospital after collapsing on the field during the Bill's NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
              Crews clear snow from a parking lot near a sign showing support for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin outside Highmark Stadium on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
              New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) tries to break free for a gain against the Miami Dolphins during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Whatever happens Sunday, when the Bills close the regular season hosting New England and beyond once the NFL playoffs begin, Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane won’t feel disappointed.

During a year in which the Bills have endured a snowstorms that disrupted their schedule, mourned the sudden death of tight end Dawson Knox’s younger brother in August, rallied to the community’s support in the aftermath of a mass shooting, and won games with little or no practice, Beane couldn’t be more proud.

And he has reason to believe the resilience will show once again following a week in which the Bills went from being emotionally stunned by witnessing Damar Hamlin getting resuscitated on the field in Cincinnati on Monday night, to being joyously uplifted after the safety addressed his teammates by videoconference on Friday.

“I love you boys,” Hamlin said in a soft voice.

“I probably get emotional if I talk too much about it, but I’m so proud of our organization, our team, just so many people, the way we’ve dealt with so much this year,” Beane said. “Definitely not the way you draw it up. I don’t know what’s gonna happen the rest of season on the field, I really don’t. This is a group of winners, and I will forever remember this team, this season.”

For Beane, the game Sunday is far more than a showdown against an AFC East rival to close the season. Instead, it represents a celebration of life in knowing Hamlin is on the road to recovery.

The bond the Bills have built in dealing with adversity has brought them even closer in how players and coaches leaned on each other in the aftermath of Hamlin’s collapse.

“This just put the cherry on top in a positive way,” left tackle Dion Dawkins said. “It has definitely just made (the bond) a permanent glue.”

As for whether the Bills believe they’re physically and emotionally ready to play, quarterback Josh Allen didn’t blink by responding: “I do.”

Allen then cited the inspiring message Hamlin’s father, Mario, delivered to the team on Wednesday in saying his son would want them to play.

“He demanded us,” Allen said. “And you can’t not honor his request to go out there and charge forward.”

The Bills (12-3) are motivated despite having less riding on the outcome of the game than the Patriots (8-8). Buffalo has clinched its third consecutive AFC East title, but has lost the inside track to win the AFC’s top seed. The NFL’s decision to cancel Buffalo’s game against Cincinnati pushed Kansas City (13-3) ahead of the Bills in the standings.

The one consolation is the league ruling the AFC championship game would be played at a neutral site should the Chiefs win the top seed and face Buffalo, should both teams win or lose on Sunday.

In New England, the Patriots need only to win to clinch their 13th playoff berth in 14 seasons. New England can also clinch a spot should the Dolphins and Steelers lose, and Jacksonville beats Tennessee.

The Patriots find themselves in the wild-card race by virtue of a 23-21 win over Miami — and despite losing four of their last six.

Not lost on coach Bill Belichick is the emotional weight that will serve as a backdrop on Sunday, when it comes to Hamlin.

“Everybody individually will have to process it like we’ve been doing. Expect it be an emotional scene and in the end we’re going there to play our best football game,” Belichick said. “I think everybody understands there’s a balance and there’s multiple things going on there.”


Bills coach Sean McDermott said Belichick was among the many NFL coaches who reached out to him to provide support after Hamlin was hurt.

“I certainly appreciate his thoughts and prayers,” McDemott said.

As for game preparation, the Bills essentially held one full practice on Thursday, with Wednesday and Friday’s sessions serving mostly as walkthroughs.

“It kind of makes you, respectfully, chuckle a little about about what we’ve dealt with,” McDermott said. “Hey, why not make it a short week on top of that.”


Sunday’s game could be the final time two of New England’s longest tenured players suit up for the Patriots.

At age 37, special teams captain Matt Slater, on a one-year, $2.6 million contract, is wrapping up his 15th season in New England. Safety Devin McCourty, a 2010 first-round pick out of Rutgers, turned 35 in August after signing a one-year, $9 million deal.

Slater has appeared in 222 games, which is second only to Tom Brady for the most games played by a Patriots player. McCourty has started all 204 games he’s appeared in, missing just five regular-season games.

“You never know how football goes. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it before the game, McCourty said.

“Just kind of think about that, let that settle in, just trying to make sure I stay in the moment, enjoy. But definitely gave it a few seconds,” he said.


New England will play its final regular-season game without punter Jake Bailey

Bailey, a 2020 All-Pro, has been on injured reserve for the last seven games dealing with back issue. He was designated to practice on Dec. 21, but Belichick said on Friday that he will revert to IR and is done for the season.

Replacement Michael Palardy is averaging just 42.6 yards per punt, ranking at the bottom of the NFL.


AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower contributed.


AP NFL: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, center, loses control of the ball as Golden State Warriors forw...
Associated Press

Murray, Jokic lead charge as Nuggets beat Warriors 134-117

DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray had 33 points and Nikola Jokic recorded his 17th triple-double of the season, leading the Denver Nuggets to a 134-117 win over the short-handed Golden State Warriors on Thursday night. Jokic finished with 22 points, 16 assists and 14 rebounds. He had a triple-double by the midway mark of the […]
21 hours ago
New Orleans Pelicans forward Jonas Valanciunas, front center, battles for position as Dallas Maveri...
Associated Press

Mavs hang on after Doncic hurt, hand Pels 10th straight loss

DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 31 points before leaving with a right heel injury, and the Dallas Mavericks held on without their All-Star for a 111-106 victory over New Orleans on Thursday night, handing the travel-weary Pelicans their 10th consecutive loss. Doncic stayed in the game after taking a hard fall in the third […]
21 hours ago
Charlotte Hornets' LaMelo Ball, right, looks to pass as Chicago Bulls' Ayo Dosunmu defends during t...
Associated Press

Dosunmu, White lead way as Bulls beat Hornets 114-98

CHICAGO (AP) — Ayo Dosunmu matched a season high with 22 points, Coby White scored 20 points and the Chicago Bulls overcame shaky outings by DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine to beat the Charlotte Hornets 114-98 on Thursday night. Dosunmu made 9 of 10 shots, and White hit three 3-pointers. Nikola Vucevic added 17 points […]
21 hours ago
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, looks for room against New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbe...
Associated Press

Mavs star Doncic injures heel on fall, out against Pelicans

DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic has been ruled out of a game against New Orleans after exiting in the third quarter with a right heel injury. Doncic stayed in the game after taking a hard fall Thursday night when he was winding up for a one-handed dunk on a drive and Brandon […]
21 hours ago
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10) celebrates after scoring against the Memphis Grizzlie...
Associated Press

Cavs All-Star Mitchell calls Grizzlies’ Brooks dirty player

CLEVELAND (AP) — Donovan Mitchell took his most vicious shots at Dillon Brooks after the game. Accusing Brooks of being a dirty player, Mitchell said the NBA needs to do something about the Memphis guard’s unruly bad behavior after he smashed Cleveland’s All-Star guard in the groin during the Cavaliers’ 128-113 victory over the Grizzlies […]
21 hours ago
New York Knicks' Julius Randle, left, shoots over Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler during the second half ...
Associated Press

Barrett scores 30, helps Knicks hold off Heat 106-104

NEW YORK (AP) — RJ Barrett never gave his coach a chance to sit him for long Thursday night. Barrett rebounded from a late-game benching with 30 points, Isaiah Hartenstein made big plays on both ends of the floor in the final minute and the New York Knicks beat the Miami Heat 106-104. Barrett played […]
21 hours ago
Bills uplifted by Hamlin’s recovery, place focus on Patriots