A Life Passes, And the Game Goes On

joe gibbs - washington redskins
Coach Joe Gibbs and a majority of the Redskins view Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills as a necessary, if awkward, event. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais - AP)
By Mike Wise
Thursday, November 29, 2007

Marcus Washington has some of the same duality Sean Taylor had. He's constantly negotiating two worlds. On Sundays in Landover, he's the menacing tackler who cares not that his torso is perpendicular to the ground before a monster hit. The rest of the week, he comes across as a soft-spoken homebody.

If it is hard to reconcile that Washington with the guy who lifts his muscular arms to the heavens -- the player who incites the FedEx Field crowd between timeouts -- it's harder still to reconcile Washington's latest, if unwanted, identity:

That of the grieving teammate, one of 61 yesterday afternoon at Redskins Park.

"Nobody knows really what to say, how to act, what to do," Washington said. He shuffled his feet. He bit his lip. He swallowed hard.

"You just kind of sit with your teammates or with your coaches. You may not say anything, but knowing someone else is there kind of feeling what you're going through, it was tough. Sometimes you kind of zone out. You think of Sean."

Washington spoke somberly the day after Taylor's death, moments after coming off the practice field -- four days before a game no one is thinking about and five days before a funeral in Miami he and his teammates never imagined attending.

It was Day 2 in the life of a team trying to cope, and the emotional hurt associated with the loss and the tragedy hardly felt any better yesterday afternoon.

"Anytime you would usually daydream about anything, the only thing you can possibly have in your mind now is Sean," said Pierson Prioleau, the veteran defensive back who sat next to Taylor on game days. "That moment when you think away from football about your family and kids, anytime your mind gets an open moment to think, it is all about Sean. And that is the way it is going to be for a while."

Maybe these kind of stories make the hard-boiled among us say, "You're a football player with a game on Sunday. Get over it."

Or maybe the attention paid to the death of a prominent sports figure -- compared with the second story on the local news about a 2-year-old girl who was beaten to death -- is enough to turn the stomach.

It's also fair to wonder if the grown men breaking down in tears beside a memorial of Taylor at the Redskins' training facility grieve as much for their own family members as for a player they never met or knew.

They are all points worth arguing and debating. But the truth is, everyone deals with death and loss in his or her own space and time. And no matter how one feels about such personal and delicate matters, it would be unfair to dismiss the authenticity of the recovery process in Ashburn. This is literally, as Joe Gibbs said, "an hour-to-hour thing."

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