Bills, McDermott attempt to shift concentration back to football with Dolphins coming to town for playoffs

ORCHARD PARK — As the positivity surrounding Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s recovery continues to grow, the Bills now, in part, shift their focus back to the goals with which they began the season, achieving a Super Bowl championship for the first time in franchise history.

While the Bills will not put their teammate and his ongoing recovery entirely in the rearview mirror, as head coach Sean McDermott made clear on Monday, they must begin to prepare for the first game of the ‘second season,’ the playoffs, which, for Buffalo, start with a matchup with AFC East rival, the Miami Dolphins — the two teams’ third meeting of the season. Buffalo and Miami split two regular-season meetings, increasing the intrigue surrounding this week’s postseason tilt.

“We’ve got to put our minds together this week and come up with a good game plan,” said McDermott. “I think more than anything, having him near nearby will give us more comfort. I know his parents are going to be with him there, and I think that helps as well, and knowing that he’s well taken care of, he’s got a great medical team around him here in Buffalo.”

Hamlin was transported from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center on Monday, returning to Buffalo, where he is presently under the care of specialists at Buffalo General Hospital.

“I just think overall it just continues to put our minds at ease that he’s in good hands and he’s moving in the right direction,” added McDermott.

The Bills will also be put at ease knowing they will be performing in front of their home fans, Bills Mafia, within the friendly confines of Highmark Stadium when they host Miami on Sunday at 1 p.m.

“I know our fans, and they love playoff football,” said McDermott. “We can’t wait to be out in front of them this weekend. They did such a fantastic job this past weekend supporting the team and the crowd noise.”

McDermott believes the Bills’ fan base makes Highmark Stadium a challenging place to play.

“It’s tough to play here,” said the Bills head coach. “And I think anyone that plays here would tell you that. No one likes coming to Buffalo, especially this time of year. So I can’t wait to see our fans take full advantage of that this weekend.”

The Bills will be guarding against a letdown this week, having won their past seven games, including a 32-29 Week 15 victory over the Dolphins and last week’s thrashing of the Patriots. With momentum on their side, McDermott believes his team is as focused as it can be given the challenging circumstances that have continued to pile up this season.

Along with the recent unfortunate circumstances surrounding Hamlin, Bills radio play-by-play announcer John Murphy recently suffered a stroke and remains in recovery. The Bills have also had to navigate various tragedies within the Western New York community, including a recent blizzard that left at least 39 people within the WNY area dead and a mass shooting in the city that left 10 dead.

“Yeah, I mean, listen, we have to have our focus where it needs to be, and that’s on a game plan on the Miami Dolphins,” said McDermott. “Damar is in good hands, and he’s, as we know, moving in the right direction, and he’s now local to us here, which helps. So I think you saw a little bit of that evolution during the game yesterday as well.

“I mean, the first play obviously gets so much publicity, but then you have to play after that. There’s, you know, 14 minutes of football plus in the first quarter there to go. I think our players did a good job of experiencing that yesterday and pushing through it and managing the highs and lows of the game and then coming out on the other end and now getting some rest and a chance to just kind of push back and reset a little bit this week.”

While much of what the Bills have forged through this season has been unprecedented challenges that seem to rack up with each passing week, McDermott says he will lean on the team’s leaders within the locker room as Buffalo continues to look ahead toward accomplishing its ultimate goal.

“Well, I mean, I think you come back to the leaders of our football team, our captains, and their experience playing in the playoffs, their experience now as leaders, going through a situation like we just went through,” said McDermott. “And we continue to progress through that as well. You know, the support that we’ll have on the floor here, that we’ve had will continue to have for the players, is a good thing to have around. But at the same time, we have to get ourselves ready to go to play playoff football this weekend.

“Each of us has a job to do, and we talk about accountability a lot around here. We’re accountable to one another to get that done.”

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