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Packer family mourns with Philbin

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Barbara Barker
January 12, 2012
— While the Packers were preparing Wednesday for their NFC divisional playoff game against the Giants, their offensive coordinator was at home with his family, preparing to bury his 21-year-old son.

The reality of the situation caused coach Mike McCarthy to choke up with emotion on Wednesday as he talked about how the death of Michael Philbin, the son of Joe Philbin, has impacted his team emotionally.


“It gives everyone a punch in the heart,” a wet-eyed McCarthy said before dropping his head for several seconds.


Michael Philbin’s body was pulled from the icy Fox River in Oshkosh, on Monday afternoon. After visiting friends Saturday at UW-Oshkosh, Philbin was reported missing Sunday night. A preliminary autopsy released Wednesday by the Oshkosh police said he drowned.


Philbin’s funeral will be in Green Bay on Friday afternoon, a little more than 48 hours before the Packers host the Giants at Lambeau Field. McCarthy said he hasn’t even broached the subject to Philbin of returning to the team for Sunday’s game.


“Frankly, Joe and I haven’t even talked about his responsibility and will not,” McCarthy said. “He’s with his family, and he’ll return when he feels he’s ready to return.”


McCarthy said he is picking up some of Philbin’s duties this week, but the majority of them have been divvied up among the other position coaches. He also said the coaching staff has two plans in place for this weekend, depending presumably on whether Philbin does return.


“We’re blessed that we’ve been together for a long time,” McCarthy said, adding that everyone on the team has a good feeling for each other’s responsibilities.


Although the team can plan the mechanics of how to deal with the impact of the Philbin family’s loss on the football field, dealing with its emotional impact on the team heading into the game may not be as easy. McCarthy said he met with his players Wednesday morning to talk about the tragedy.


“Everybody is feeling it,” he said.


There was little doubt of that in the locker room after practice. The Packers are a family-oriented franchise, and judging from the number of lockers that prominently featured pictures of children, a significant portion of the players are fathers themselves.


Linebacker Clay Matthews said the Packers are going to dedicate the game to their offensive coordinator, and that he will be on their minds whether or not he is on the field.


“We all feel for coach Philbin and hope the way we play this week is indicative of what he would want,” Matthews said. “He’s doing the right thing right now being with his family.”


Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the death had impacted everybody on the team.


“I don’t know the right words to say to him to try to comfort him,” Rodgers said. “I’ve never dealt with anything like this before. I’ve never been to a funeral in my life, knock on wood. So this is a tough time.”


Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang, whose father, Thomas, died last week, summarized the Philbin tragedy in a tweet: “As children we all have to someday say goodbye to our parents, but a parent should never have to say goodbye to their child.”


McCarthy, the father of four, clearly felt the same. Said the Packers coach: “This lets you know the reality of how fortunate we all are to be here.”



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