Training camp is supposed to be the time when teams sequester themselves in football, isolate themselves from every worldly distraction.
Reality intruded on the Steelers, and the sudden passing of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake changed everything for the team.
They returned to the practice field Tuesday for the first time, but it was a somber day, with players gathering for prayer, many with tears in their eyes, before they returned to work. As much as they might have wanted to focus on football, however, it wasn’t going to be easy. The young receivers Drake worked with may not have been their sharpest, often taking breaks and being consoled by teammates.
“We’re all devastated. I really can’t think of any other appropriate words,” Tomlin said, via Mark Kaboly of TheAthletic.com. “Our time and attention in recent days have been spent in support of the Drake family. Miss Sheila and Darryl’s daughters and extended family — many of us have had an opportunity to spend time with them through this. They’ve been amazing. In making arrangements and adjusting, we’ve tried to be as supportive organizationally to them as we can in what is a very difficult time.”
The team has brought in grief counselors, and gave players a two-day break from practice to begin the process of grieving. “It has been said that counseling is not for the weak but the wise,” Tomlin said.
He also refused to accept that getting back to work was going to help make things normal again.
“I don’t know that it does, but we have professional obligations,” Tomlin said. “So we intend to march.”
As they mourn and miss their coach and their friend, that’s the step they have to take at the moment, because it’s the one in front of them.