After Damar Hamlin's cardiac event on the field in Cincinnati last Monday night, Buffalo's defensive backs were in shock. They, like the rest of their Bills teammates needed to know he was going to be okay before they could focus on anything else like Buffalo's Week 18 matchup with New England.
Once that was confirmed later in the week, there was a collective exhale by the Bills' DBs and the rest of the roster. But if one thinks for a second that what those players witnessed will just fade away and football will be their only focus going forward could not be more wrong.
"This week has been, excuse my language, it's been a (expletive) show," said Tre'Davious White. "Just for something like that to happen, and for it to happen like that. For the chances of stuff like that happening on a football field that never happens.
"Every time I close my eyes, it replays. I try watching TV and every time the TV goes to commercial that's the only thing that comes to my mind. Just the vision of that. So it's been a tough week. Been a tough week for our whole team but it's not about us right now. It's about Damar and his family man and just what they had to go through with his mom and his dad being right behind our bench. To witness their son go through that man it's just... it's tough. Hopefully we will never have to go through this again."
The event was traumatic enough in itself. Then knowing it was one of the players not only on their roster, but who they see every day in their meeting room it left an indelible impact.
"For it to be one of our brothers, and then for it to be in our room, in our DB room," said White. "I was just telling somebody the other day our DB room is sort of like my college DB room was. We're so connected, and we hang out outside of the field and football never comes up most of the time. So anytime you have a bond with guys like that, and to see something like that happen and for me I know I saw everything transpire from the hit to him getting up, to him falling to everything is just something that I can't unsee."
The Bills organization has provided extra counselors for players and coaches to meet with this week and for as long as they need in the coming weeks to address dealing with the trauma of seeing their fallen teammate fight for his life.
And that help has been welcomed openly by those on the roster and staff. The fact that it's one of the most positive and genuine personalities in the locker room only makes what happened to him all the more challenging.
"Damar is one of the most resilient, honest and just pure people that I've met," said White. "We got a text from Damar (Saturday) morning around 2:30 in the morning."
"For him to text us... and what he said was, 'I'm thinking about y'all. I'm sorry that I did that to y'all,'" White said. "For him to check on us, when he's the person that's going through what he's going through man, it just shows what type of person he is. For him to check on us in a situation like that when he's the one that's going through it just shows what type of person he is."
As altruistic as Hamlin is with his teammates and everyone he seemingly meets, it was hard to remove the weight that his teammates felt. Not only from their worry for his well-being, but to then carry the responsibility of playing and succeeding for him on Sunday.
Perhaps no one felt that more than veteran Dean Marlowe, who made his first start since his return to the Bills at the trade deadline a deal with Atlanta. Marlowe had not been active since Week 12 and coming into the game had played exactly one snap on defense.
"We preach next man up mentality and I've been able to be with Damar for the last, I'll probably say 11 weeks, and just watching him grow each day," said Marlowe. "And in my mind, it wasn't about me, it was about playing for him. Everything that I can do for him to watch and just be proud that the guys on the back end are doing their job. So at any point in time I know I've got to do my job and it's the league. So next man up mentality and I go out there and play for my brothers."
"Honestly I don't know how some of us did it," said White. "Just because some of us had a different view of what went on and that's traumatizing. And I was telling someone earlier like I've seen traumatic things in my life just growing up where I grew up and just in the environment that I've been raised in, but it was always the end result of me walking up and seeing it. But there was never a time where I saw every part of the event, everything transpire until the end. So that is tough man."
Marlowe made a point of not let the fact that he had to replace Hamlin in the lineup impact his play by feeling he had to be more than who he was as a player. Fortunately, he could rest on his seven years of NFL experience, but it wasn't easy.
"It was it was up and down," said Marlowe for his preparation this week. "We play the same position and for me to fill in and do the job and get the job done. We're human where in the back of our mind we're thinking about, 'Hey, this situation can be a little bit bigger because I'm filling in for him.' But I kept even ground and with the support of my teammates and coaches and then family, they just said, 'Go out there and do what you do. This is not your first rodeo. You're here for a reason, go play ball.'"
Over the last few days Hamlin has used FaceTime with his teammates, both in their Friday morning meeting where he spoke to them for the first time and again on Sunday in the postgame locker room where his teammates gave him the game ball. But that might not be enough for White and his fellow defensive backs. They want him back in their room. Hopefully sometime soon.
"Hopefully we can just get him here," said White. "I just want to hug the (expletive) out of him because in the meeting room he sits like two seats away from me and every time he comes in to meeting room he says, 'T Weezy!' So I can't wait to hear his voice and be able to touch them and just hug the (expletive) out of him and hear that again. So we miss you, man and just get back to us. It's been a hard week. It's been a hard week."
An emotional win at Highmark Stadium. Check out the best postgame photos from Buffalo's 35-23 win over the Patriots to close the 2022 regular season.