It was another memorable Return of the Blue and Red practice as 35,000 fans filled the lower bowl at Highmark Stadium to catch a glimpse of the Buffalo Bills.
QB Josh Allen wowed fans before practice started by running out of the tunnel in a blue helmet with the charging buffalo on the sides. Allen switched back to the white helmet before practice, but the quarterback has had a particular flair for the dramatic at Blue and Red practices in recent years; last season he donned a Bills red helmet in his run out.
Safety Damar Hamlin ran out to a thunderous applause from Bills Mafia and spent time playing catch with kids along the sideline.
On the field, the Bills continued their preparation for the start of the year with their first preseason game just eight days away.
Here are the top things to know from Friday's Return of the Blue and Red:
Hamlin, Kincaid & more soak up fan frenzy at Highmark Stadium
Tight end Dalton Kincaid got his first taste of what a game day atmosphere will be like in Orchard Park and it didn't disappoint.
"I mean up in Rochester they've definitely been making their presence felt, but this is definitely a whole different experience," Kincaid said. "It's awesome to see all these people come out here and if this is anything close to what a home game's like, it's gonna be fun."
Each day during camp has been a step forward for the rookie TE as he approaches his NFL debut, and Friday marked his first experience going through a routine akin to a Sunday game. The players arrived early, had their pregame meals and put on their uniforms in the home team locker room. Kincaid said it was valuable to get a feel for how regular season games will go.
"Definitely a moment, you know, you take it in as much as you can," he shared. "Even coming out here and seeing everyone, hearing everyone, it's a moment you take in for a little bit."
After seeing so many people with No. 3 jerseys and signs, Hamlin was overjoyed with the amount of support.
"Buffalo is a special place. It's one of the most special places in America," Hamlin said. "You only get to truly experience it as a Buffalo Bill the right way. They show up for us when in doubt."
RB Damien Harris has been on the opposing sideline in Buffalo several times before, but he's glad now that he can embrace the fans and atmosphere.
"This is great man, these are the best fans in the world," Harris said "My first time here on the good side, you know what I mean?"
Even with the high level of excitement from the fans and players alike, Harris said the priority for the team through the two hour practice was to execute plays and find ways to improve.
"Everybody's getting out here wanting to come out here and execute, maintain that level of focus and just continue to raise our standard as a team," Harris shared.
The Bills held their annual open training camp practice at Highmark Stadium on Aug. 4. Check out the best photos from the event.
Another milestone moment for Damar Hamlin
Damar Hamlin passed another milestone on Friday when he ran out onto the field in full pads as fans screamed and cheered his name.
The last time Hamlin was at Highmark Stadium he wasn't on the field but watching from above in a suite during the Bengals-Bills playoff game. Hamlin described that day as emotional because he didn't know what his future would hold.
The Return of the Blue and Red practice was also emotional for Hamlin but in a different way.
"I probably shed tears like twice out here, just so many emotions, so much love for the game," Hamlin shared. "And blessed to be back out here with my team, just playing a sport that I love at the highest level meant everything to me."
Hamlin said putting his shoulder pads on and running out onto the field are moments that will stick with him.
"Just a couple of days ago it was just seven months," Hamlin said of his recovery. "I'm still in the process of healing. It's a blessing to be able to have this progress and to be able to be out here and do what I'm doing."
While there will be many other milestones for Hamlin in his journey back to playing, the Return of the Blue and Red practice felt like another step in the right direction.
"It's a really good step," Hamlin said. "It's a really good milestone to reach. It's been on the schedule for a while. But like I said, in my process, I'm one day at a time. Trying to look forward, it just creates a lot of anxiety, a lot of unnecessary feelings. If you stay in the moment, it allows you to process it when you're there."
Hamlin made sure to stay in the moment as he played catch with his little brother after practice ended and made his way around the stadium to greet fans and sign autographs.
Offense and defense flash + other practice notes
The Bills repped several different types of game scenarios during the practice, including a four-minute drill, goal line, red zone and more. Linebacker Matt Milano and cornerback Taron Johnson did not practice due to general soreness, so that gave opportunities for different players to get valuable time with the first team.
During one of the first team periods, Josh Allen handed it off to James Cook who found a hole on the left side and took it up the sideline for a big gain. The defensive line put good pressure on the quarterbacks throughout practice by pushing them out of the pocket and forcing throws. On one play, the quarterback and center had a snap hit the ground for a fumble, and the defensive line quickly jumped on it to take the ball away.
On the first play of the goal line period, Josh Allen faked a handoff and found WR Trent Sherfield in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. A few plays later, Kyle Allen handed it off to RB Latavius Murray who bounced to the outside and then cut in for a touchdown. To break up the touchdown party, the defense had three-straight stops at the goal line. Matt Barkley also connected with TE Quintin Morris for a touchdown as Morris continues to have a great camp. On the next play, Barkley threw a pass into the end zone intended for WR Marcell Ateman but CB Kyron Brown was there to break the pass up before it could reach Ateman. Kyle Allen and RB Damien Harris also had rushing touchdowns during that period.
The team finished practice by doing 11 on 11 work in the red zone. On the first play, Josh Allen fired a pass over to Stefon Diggs in the corner of the end zone. Taylor Rapp tried to get his hands in the passing lane, but Allen put it right on Diggs to make the TD look easy. The next play, Josh Allen tossed a short pass over to Khalil Shakir who ran it in for a touchdown. Kyle Allen was up next and threw a pass intended for Justin Shorter, but Dean Marlowe did a great job reading the route and forced an incompletion. On the last play of the period, Kyle Allen fired one into the back of the end zone and connected with Trent Sherfield for a touchdown.
Tyler Bass attempted seven field goals throughout practice and made every attempt. Practice finished with a walk-off 55-yard field goal by Bass that could have easily been good from farther out.
The Bills will return to St. John Fisher University in Rochester on Sunday for their final four training camp practices.