Packers support grieving Philbin

Packers support grieving Philbin

Published Jan. 13, 2012 2:59 p.m. ET

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers have spent all week preparing for Sunday's playoff game against the New York Giants and trying, as best they can, to support their grieving offensive coordinator.

Joe Philbin has been away from the team since 21-year-old Michael T. Philbin vanished on Sunday. His body was found in a river in Oshkosh, Wis., on Monday and initial autopsy results indicate that he drowned.

Several players and coaches attended a visitation Thursday night and others said they would attend Friday's funeral service. Some said they would go to both.

For wide receiver Jordy Nelson, it was time for real life to take precedence over football.
"It's necessary," Nelson said Friday. "Something like this reminds you that this is a game. There are definitely more important things in life."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged that it has been a rough week for everyone.
"It's challenging, no question about it," McCarthy said. "But as we talked as a team on Wednesday, it's important to separate your professional and personal life. Sometimes, it's not possible. We managed it."

Assistant head coach Winston Moss was attending the funeral, and said he expects the team to be ready to play Sunday after a tough week.

"This organization puts family first, so I respect that and I encourage that, and I'm appreciative of that as well," Moss said. "I think today, when it's all said and done, today is going to be the right thing to do. Moving forward, we'll deal with this today and get ready for Sunday to play a hell of a game."

This week was particularly taxing for Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang, whose father recently died after a battle with cancer. Lang wasn't sure he could go to another funeral so soon after burying his dad, but he did see the Philbin family at Thursday night's visitation.

"I went yesterday to see coach, and I know a lot of other guys went as well," Lang said. "He's got a lot of support, and he knows that. Going through the same thing last week, I know it's very tough to deal with. There's nothing that anybody can say to kind of heal that pain, but the more support you have from everybody definitely helps out."

Lang called Philbin a "very loved man" in the Packers' organization.

"It's tough to watch him go through something like this," Lang said. "So we're doing our best to show our support for him, and I think the best way we can do that is go out there and execute and make some plays on Sunday. That's what he would want us to do. I think that's the best statement we can make as a team."

Kicker Mason Crosby spoke to Philbin at Thursday's visitation.

"(He's) seeing a lot of people and just occasionally breaking down," Crosby said. "It's a tragedy you don't want anyone to ever have to go through, especially a good family like they have. It's good that they have so much support, that family is able to come in, and the guys on the team everyone's just rallied, and all of the wives and the family members of the players and coaches have really done everything they could to try to help. And that's going to have to continue because it's going to be a tough time."

The Philbins have five other children. Crosby said his wife, Molly, has become close with Philbin's wife, Diane.

"She's just kind of been a mentor, in a sense, to my wife, to help her with our son, Nolan, and just kind of learning the ropes sometimes," Crosby said. "My wife likes to learn, and Diane's just been such an inspiration to her. Roles change sometimes. I know them and talking to Joe and Diane last night, they have a hard time just having those roles change because they want to be so strong, and it's hard for them to let go."

With Philbin away from the team, the Packers' other offensive assistants divided his responsibilities.

"I can tell you this from our whole staff: Joe is with us," offensive line coach James Campen said. "Even though he's physically not here, his presence is here. Joe is not only someone we've all been together with but in other ways, too, he's always been one to teach for the unexpected. So, we're fine in what we're doing and I'm very confident in our preparation. Joe is with us, even though he's not here."

Nobody expects Philbin to be anywhere but with his family when the Packers face the Giants, defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said he wouldn't be surprised if Philbin shows up for the game.

"Nobody's expecting that at all because we know his family needs him right now," Pickett said. "But we miss him. Of course we miss coach, everybody misses him around the building. But we know his family needs him more."