It was not quite business as usual today at Foxboro Stadium as the Patriots tried to get on with their preparation for Sunday's game at Carolina that may or may not be played. Head Coach Bill Belichick spoke with his team this morning and said that virtually the entire organization was affected in one way or another by Tuesday morning's brutal terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
"We've all been on those flights and in those locations that were struck," Belichick said. "We need to be supportive to the people involved and also to our own families."
As of Wednesday afternoon, the NFL had still yet to make a final decision on whether or not to play this weekend's games. According to league spokesman Joe Browne, one will be forthcoming within the next 24 hours.
Until a definitive course of action is made, Belichick and his staff will try as best as they can to ready the team for the Panthers. He said that would involve a simplified gameplan in anticipation of the players' lack of focus in such a trying time.
"I was young but I remember President Kennedy and when the nation was dealing with that tragedy," Belichick said of the league's pending decision. "I understand what the factors are that go into a decision like this. You don't want to let the people responsible for this affect everyday life but at the same time you have to be sensitive to what's going on.
"In the meantime we're spending our time preparing for Carolina," he added.
Quarterback Drew Bledsoe echoed many of the head coach's sentiments and spoke on behalf of his teammates. "Obviously this is a very solemn day here and all over the United States," the quarterback said. "I think we've all been affected either directly or indirectly.
"I'd like to express my appreciation to the real heroes and they are the firemen, policemen and paramedics who risked and gave their lives to help the people involved," Bledsoe added. "So many times we as professional athletes are held up as heroes but those are he real heroes."
One Patriots player who was too closely involved in the tragedy is Joe Andruzzi. New England's starting right guard grew up on Staten Island and his family still lives there. He has three brothers who are New York firemen and one, older brother Jim, was inside the North Tower of the World Trade Center when the South Tower came down.
Andruzzi made several frantic phone calls home during the afternoon on Tuesday until he finally received word that his immediate family was all accounted for.
"I kept calling home and just kept getting busy signals," Andruzzi said as he recalled the horrifying details of his traumatic day. "It took a couple of hours but I finally got in touch with my parents and found out basically that Jim got out just in time."
Belichick explained that several Patriots players had ties to people impacted in both places. He didn't mention any specific cases like Andruzzi's, citing to do so wouldn't be appropriate.
He did say that two players – linebacker Roman Phifer and tackle Greg Robinson-Randall – had yet to rejoin the team because of travel restrictions. Phifer spent his off day at home in Los Angeles while Robinson-Randall was in Texas.
The team did practice at their normal time in the afternoon although football was among the furthest things on virtually everyone involved in the organization's mind.
"Your first instinct and inclination is to be around your family," Bledsoe said. "You want to be there for protection and to be close to them. But obviously we're here and we have to go about our business."