While there is no question that the surprise release of Pro Bowl safety and defensive captain Lawyer Milloy was still radiating throughout the Patriots locker room Wednesday morning, there was a noticeable change in the words the remaining 52 players were speaking.
After Tuesday's transaction most of the players spoke of simple shock and disbelief at the move. One day later the theme most often heard was one of the need for the remaining players to move on and focus on preparations for the coming NFL season that is now just four days away and will come regardless of the team's mental or emotional state.
"As hard as it is we are going to have to [get ready to play,]" linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "I am a bottom line type of guy and I am a factual type of guy and the facts are that Lawyer is not here. It's not by our choice. There isn't anything we could have done about it, but Lawyer is probably going to be with another team pretty soon. So what can we do about it? There is nothing we can do. There is nothing we can do about the moves they make up top. The only thing we can control in here is playing good football. And that's what we have to do and focus on being 1-0 and beating the Buffalo Bills. That's it. That's all."
Bruschi admitted that the teams practice action yesterday, the team's first day of full preparation for the Bills, was probably affected by the emotional transaction that took place earlier in the day.
"I think it started out a little slow," Bruschi said of Tuesday's practice. "A lot of things were on guys' minds yesterday, but you just have to be strong. One of your key guys is gone and I hate to say it but you have to move on. You have to because there are still 16 football games left to be played and the guys in this room are going to be the ones that are playing them for the Patriots."
Part of that moving on involves a look into who is going to be asked to fill the void left by the four-time Pro Bowl safety who had never missed a game in his seven seasons in New England. For the time being anyway, it would appear that Antwan Harris, Aric Morris and Chris Akins will be asked to shoulder that load in varying degrees.
"It's an opportunity for a lot of guys, not just myself by also Antwan Harris, Aric Morris and Je'Rod Cherry," Akins said. "We all have an equal shot in being able to step in that role. So we all just have to go out there every day and prepare ourselves and whoever gets the nod is going to have to go in there and get ready."
According to budding defensive leader Richard Seymour it is also up to the players at other positions to help fill the void as well as maintain a degree of confidence in every player that is put on the field.
"I think we have some guys that can fill that role," Seymour said. "I don't want to get it mistaken, it was definitely a big loss for us to take at this point in the season, the opening game. He was a leader in the locker room and on. But I definitely think that we have some guys that we can rally around and go out there and get the job done. I'm not looking to go to Buffalo and be on an emotional low or anything like that. We are going to come out, we are going to be fired up and ready to go."
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick acknowledged that the Milloy release could present an emotional challenge for his team, one that he is hoping the team will get past simply through focused preparation for the Bills. Asked at the end of his Wednesday press conference what thoughts he hoped his team would focus on to move past the shock of losing a leader such as Milloy, Belichick responded with a single word, "Buffalo."
There is no doubt that the release of Milloy was much more than the usual preseason transaction, but it appears that a day later the remaining team members have begun the recovery process and are attempting to move forward and focus on the task at hand, Sunday's matchup with the Buffalo Bills.