CINCINNATI, Ohio — The team of doctors who have been treating Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin at UC Medical Center in Cincinnati say he has made substantial improvement after collapsing when his heart stopped after making a tackle during the first quarter of Buffalo’s game against the Bengals on Monday night.

“We had significant concern about him after the injury and the incident on the field,” Dr. Timothy Pritts, MD, professor in the department of surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and division chief of general surgery and vice chair for clinical operations at UC Health, said. “But he is now making substantial progress.”

As of Thursday, Hamlin is beginning to awaken, according to Dr. Pritts, and appears to be neurologically intact, but continues to be critically ill in the ICU and still has significant progress still to make. 

"This marks a really good turning point in his ongoing care,” Dr. Pritts said, adding that he is currently moving his hands and his feet. 

Doctors say they want to see Hamlin continue breathing on his own, which will be the next big milestone in his recovery. They add that it's entirely too early to even talk about a possible return to football and the next steps are simply seeing him get better day-to-day.

There is no timeline for a complete removal from the ventilator, and Dr. Pritts says while they’d like to get him off as soon as possible, they are not putting thresholds on the process. 

Doctors say that when Hamlin first woke up, the first thing he did was ask his bedside nurse who won Monday night's game. When he asked that question, doctors say they told him, 'you won the game of life.' Hamlin was able to communicate by writing; he cannot speak because of a breathing tube in his throat.

Dr. William Knight credited the quick medical response with saving Hamlin’s life.

He said a physician was within Hamlin’s side within a minute of him collapsing and recognized that the defensive back did not have a pulse. Knight said Hamlin required CPR and resuscitation on the field. 

“It’s been a long and difficult road for the last three days ... he has made a pretty remarkable improvement,” Knight said.

The second-year player spent the past two days sedated and listed in critical condition.