EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Tom Coughlin was dealing with more than the New York Giants’ 0-2 start Wednesday, and most of his players knew it.
The team’s poor play was insignificant compared to what the 67-year-old Coughlin had been through the past 48 hours.
His only brother, John, died unexpectedly Monday night in Hackensack, N.J. The death came a day after the Giants’ season seemed to be slipping away following a 41-23 loss to the Denver Broncos.
“I know exactly what he is going through, unexpected death, death of a family member, someone who is very close to you,” said defensive end Justin Tuck, who has played nine seasons for Coughlin. “I am sure he was someone he talked to regularly and confided in and that person is no longer there. It’s difficult. It anybody understands it, I definitely do.
“You try your best to be supportive.”
Two years ago, Tuck went through his own tragedy. He had his grandfather and an uncle die in a span of a month.
Tuck admired the way Coughlin handled himself at the 8 a.m. team meeting, noting the long-time coach probably would not have burdened the team with his problems had it been possible. He spoke because they already knew about it.
“It just goes to show you the character that he has and how much he puts into the team and the organization,” fullback Henry Hynoski said. “He loves us. He treats us like we are his own sons. We feel bad for him and his family. We want to go out and give that little extra for him this week. He’s here for us and we have to be there for him, too, for this tough process.”
A club official who asked not to be identified said Coughlin’s approach to Sunday’s game against the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. has not changed. He has been in his office, working.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less out of him,” said guard Chris Snee, Coughlin’s son-in-law. “I don’t know how he feels prior to our 8 o’clock meeting or after practice, but during that window, he is enthusiastic and he has been trying to lead us to a victory.”
Receiver Victor Cruz said it was emotional listening to Coughlin, especially the passion in his voice.
“I feel like this team is an extended family to him and we felt like he could talk to us as candidly as he wanted to,” Cruz said. “People are going to respond. It was a time where we needed to hear that. It was definitely an emotional thing, at least for me it was.
“I am personally going to respond for him and I think the team will as well.”
Coughlin was not asked about his brother’s death at his news conference Wednesday. The team has asked the media to refrain from reporting it until an obituary was ready.
“Our family is thankful for the expressions of sympathy and prayers for our brother John’s passing,” Coughlin said in a statement. “We all appreciate them. John was a friend to all. He loved life, and he will be greatly missed. He left us way too soon.”
Coughlin, who led the Giants to Super Bowl wins in the 2007 and 2011 seasons, did thank the reporters for their concern and condolences as he entered and left the news conference.
“The only way we can be there for him is stepping it up,” said Pro Bowl longer snapper Zak DeOssie, who played on both Super Bowl teams.
Safety Antrel Rolle said the tragedy has brought the team closer.
“We are all family,” he said. “If coach has a loss, we all deal with the loss. We’re here for him. Our condolences go out to him and the rest of his family. No better time than to pick his spirits up.”
Coughlin had been alerted to his brother’s medical crisis on Monday morning and traveled to the hospital. After meeting with the team, he skipped his usual day-after news conference and returned to his brother’s room.
His meeting with the team Wednesday was his first since the death.
“Anytime you have someone in your circle who is a coach or a player and they are going through a hard time, of course you want to do your part to pick them up,” Tuck said. “If that’s win a football game or saying a kind word or whatever it may be, you are always going to try your best to pick their spirits up.
That’s what they did for me and I was better for it. Any way I can return the favor or we as a football team can, we need to jump on that.”
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