- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

The Washington Redskins struggled to return to work yesterday. Stunned by the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks Tuesday, players blocked out the tragedy only long enough for the two-hour practice.

"It was beneficial to get back to work and get your mind off it because it's 24 hours a day on TV," linebacker Eddie Mason said.

Flags at Redskin Park flew at half staff. The practice field was strangely quiet, with the usual steady flow of air traffic from nearby Dulles International Airport absent. Only a lone fighter jet was visible overhead.

The NFL closed locker rooms to the media and told players not to discuss whether the league should play Sunday before its decision is announced today. However, many Redskins passionately discussed how the bombing impacted their lives.

"I don't know if you can feel safe anywhere where there's a lot of people stadiums, big buildings, airports," safety Keith Lyle said.

Said coach Marty Schottenheimer: "I talked to [Pittsburgh coach] Bill Cowher today and he said, 'I don't know how I feel.' I think we all run the gamut of emotion from anger to grief. I think it changes from moment to moment."

The Redskins were torn over playing the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday with tragedy so recent. Some felt it trivial to play. Others thought it might be therapeutic.

"It's good to try to move on from [the bombings], but it's difficult knowing football is nothing compared to it," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "Once you get on the field and try to play, it got a little easier as we went."

Said linebacker LaVar Arrington: "You lose what's important in life. This put everything back in proper perspective."

Mostly, players said they were willing to play if the NFL opts to proceed. They're just unsure whether fans will be ready to watch.

"The pictures, the body counts will be in circulation all week. I don't know if football, which is violent, will be a release," Lyle said. "It would be nice to take people's minds off it, but there are a lot of people out there that can't ignore it. They can't watch football. I don't know if football's the answer."

Said Arrington: "I have mixed feelings towards it. You don't want to be disrespectful in any way. After a tragedy to that extent, it's almost like you realize football and other things are sports. You have to keep it in the proper perspective. I'll let the NFL decide."

Added Schottenheimer: "If indeed the games are played, maybe there will be some opportunity for a different focus. That's certainly not to suggest the thoughts of these events would be gone, because they'll never be gone. I've tried not to think about [whether] should it be played, should it not be played. I'm glad I don't have to make the decision."

Defensive end Marco Coleman, tight end Walter Rasby and running back Ki-Jana Carter were unable to attend practice because of the air-travel ban. Coleman drove back from Atlanta, while Rasby and Carter were in New York and Florida, respectively. One unidentified player was worried over a missing family member who worked near the World Trade Center.

Still, Schottenheimer thought the closed practice went well, as the team tried to move past its 30-3 loss to San Diego on Sunday.

"I think they did a pretty good job," Schottenheimer said. "Maybe there's something therapeutic about it, but once you walk off the field it immediately comes back to your conscious mind."

Schottenheimer admitted that preparing after the tragedy has been difficult. He needed several extra hours to ready the game plan with other coaches on Tuesday because they were often caught watching televised reports.

"There's no blueprint on how you might do this," he said. "The one thing that I would say is when you're involved in times like this, my family brings great strength to me. This football team is a family of sorts, and we need to try to lean on one another. It's something that's very difficult to understand."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide