As the Packers continue to ready themselves for their showdown with the Giants this weekend, they’re having to practice and prepare through the pain that offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is feeling after his son, Michael, drowned in the Fox River last Sunday morning in Oshkosh, Wis.
Philbin has not returned to the team since police positively identified the body, and it’s not clear if and when he’ll be available for the team’s playoff run. Until then, the Packers continue on with heavy hearts.
"Honestly, there's nothing anybody can really say that'll make the pain go away,” Packers guard T.J. Lang, said via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Philbin wasn’t in Green Bay for Packers practice Wednesday, and afterward, an emotional Mike McCarthy told the assembled media, “The reality of this just gave everybody a punch in the heart to let you know the reality how fortunate to be where we are."
Without Philbin at the team facility during the week of preparation, McCarthy had delegated Philbin’s responsibilities to other assistant coaches. As the newspaper writes, “Philbin doesn't call plays on Sundays. The offense is in McCarthy's vision with a MVP front-runner serving as the triggerman. But Philbin is a behind-the-scenes force that keeps the unit in unison. He's the one leading offensive meetings at the start of each week, breaking down certain plays.”
And at the end of the week, when the team is finishing up its final practice, Philbin takes over the drill as the first-team offense goes against the scout-team defense. As the Journal Sentinel relates, "'It's a lively scene,' (Evan) Dietrich-Smith said. Players are jumping, yelling and trying to stump the starters. Philbin raises the urgency. It's one way he pushes Rodgers and the offense as a whole."
So, how do the Packers cope for now?
"When you step into our building, you have to find a way to focus on the task at hand and when you go home you deal with things there," said Lang, who also revealed that he’s been dealing with the emotions brought on by a sick father. "But I think we've always had a strong team. We're a very close team.
"Guys rally around each other when you're going through tough times."
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