The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 happened on a Tuesday morning -- the day when most teams start the clock. Coaches looking at tape, players trying to get past the aches and pains of the previous game. The NFL, getting back up to speed for another week.
And then, the unspeakable happened, and everything was changed forever. Ten years later, many in the NFL both then and now remember how their day-to-day lives were hit sideways by the worst thing they'd ever seen.
Perhaps nobody remembered it as emotionally as former San Francisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci:
Herm Edwards, ESPN analyst, New York Jets head coach in 2001 — "When the event hit … you take your whistle off your neck and the hat off your head, and you're not the head coach anymore. That's your title, but you're an American first, and I thought that was reflected during the course of the week … Our spirit will endure, and I think we've shown that over the last 10 years. We need to keep that in our minds — it becomes a part of our history. We can't lose sight of what America really means.
"Obviously the week of, we were ready not to play. Our team had voted, and I really pressed upon them — men, this is not about football; it's really about being Americans and doing the right thing for our country and for those that we've lost. I thought the league made a great decision in not playing. And then from there, we headed up to New England, and it was a special moment. I thought our country needed football … I thought the fans, the players, and America handled it very well. "(ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown)
Rex Ryan, New York Jets head coach, Baltimore Ravens defensive line coach in 2001 -- "Usually, like I go against my brother and all that and you have a lot of fun with that, but I feel, I don't know it's different, like a responsibility. And every week I have a responsibility to make sure our team is prepared but, I don't know, it just feels different to me.
"The significance of it, it's stronger than any game I've ever felt. I feel more pressure on this game for whatever reason than any game I've ever coached, it seems like." (New York Post)
Michael Strahan, Fox Sports NFL analyst, New York Giants defensive end in 2001 — "I lived in a house in Montclair, New Jersey, and the skyline was my view. So, it was clear, and I'm looking at it, and it was the scariest moment of my life. Because you don't know what to do — how to react to this situation. It was surreal. The feeling of going on the road, playing an NFL game — it definitely changed … because there was patriotism. There were no, 'OK, I'm an Eagles fan, and I'm gonna hate the Giants.' It was, 'You know what? The Eagles aren't my team … but you know what? This is about people. And everyone responded that way.
"So at every away game, you didn't feel animosity. We felt that, 'Hey — we're happy you're here, and may the best team win.' There was definitely a sense of patriotism and togetherness unlike any other year I've ever had. I had 14 other years [in the NFL] that were nothing like this one. We looked at it as a privilege to play, and get 70-80,000 people away from those thoughts for a few hours, and come to a game. Being in the stadiums with the flags, and the fans, and the flyovers, and the FDNY hats and everything … it was a sense of pride.
"I think we still have a responsibility as players and broadcasters and fans to remember what we really play for — to have the same pride in our country, and in the game." (NFL Network)
John Fox, Denver Broncos head coach, New York Giants defensive coordinator in 2001 — "We're traveling down the turnpike, and our security guy, Mike Murphy, said, 'Hey Foxy — some guy just [flew] a plane into the Trade Center.'" (ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown)
Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams head coach, Philadelphia Eagles defensive backs coach in 2001 -- "I just glanced over, because the news was on, and I saw a building going down … I'll never forget that day." (ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown)
Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys head coach, New York Giants backup quarterback in 2001 — "It was a day like none other for anybody in our country, certainly, and for us being there, close to it, it was an emotional day," Garrett said, "and it was one I certainly will never forget.
"I remember.... there was a big call to give blood and a lot of people were very excited to do that and help out any way that they could, to the point where at some point they were making announcements, 'We have so much blood we can't tell you.' I think that was the spirit of it soon after that event, because it was a tragic event. But my most distinct memories are how everyone rallied after the event."
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants head coach, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach in 2001 (Coughlin's son, Tim, worked for Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Center, and survived the attack) — "It'll be a very emotional day. It's incredible that it has been that long, to be honest with you. And the whole idea with me is, America cannot forget what we went through as a nation at that time — and we cannot forget the Americans we lost, and their families who lost them, and the brave people who acted heroically in the aftermath. My reverence is based on that.
"I have tremendous admiration and respect for the firefighters who walked past him and went right up there into a building that was 2,000 degrees. When you think about the bravery it required to do something like that, it's just incredible.
"We know this is just one story. We're on our hands and knees thanking God for this miracle. And right now my whole spirit and emotions are in recognition of the families of those that paid the ultimate price. It did change our lives and create a whole different focus for us as a nation. So yes, it's a time of reflection.
"And my whole feeling is, let's never, ever, ever forget this." (Yahoo! Sports)
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