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'A family' | Buffalo Bills supporters rally behind Damar Hamlin

Sunday was the Bills' first game since Damar Hamlin's on-field collapse.

WASHINGTON — It's been nearly a week since Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin's on-field cardiac arrest Monday night stunned the NFL and the nation.

Hamlin was rushed to the hospital and the NFL canceled the remainder of that game.

Sunday, for the first time since Hamlin went down, the Bills were back on the field to take on the New England Patriots.

However, hundreds of miles from Buffalo, a stalwart group of DMV Bills fans gathered to watch.

"For a city like Buffalo, I think...hometown away from home," said Gregory Wahl.

Wahl is the president of the Washington, DC Buffalo Bills Backers, the fan club that organized Sunday's viewing party at The Bullpen in Navy Yard.

The group gathered Sunday hoping this time was nothing like the last game they watched where they witnessed Hamlin's collapse during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Shateela Winters was in the stands when it happened.

"One of my friends who was sitting ten rows down, she came up and we cried together. We hugged each other together," she said. "They joke about the Bills Mafia, but mafia is really like a family."

Sunday afternoon, Damar Hamlin was in that family's heart.

"My husband calls me 'negative Nancy' so, of course, I feared the worst," said Paula Schnaufer. "Then it was hope."

They have good reason to hope.

Hamlin remains in the hospital, but a recent Bills statement said that "Damar is making continued progress in his recovery" and "his neurological function is excellent."

On Twitter yesterday, Hamlin wrote that "the love is felt, & extremely real."

The Bills defeated the Patriots 35 to 23. 

A raffle organized by Wahl's Washington, DC Bills Backers at Sunday's watch party raised more than $1,500. Wahl says the money will be used to purchase two AEDs--lifesaving devices used in cardiac emergencies. One will be donated to a school in Buffalo and another to a D.C. school.

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