NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Two days after 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., NFL fans gathering in stadiums across the country honored the victims’ memory with periods of silence and reflection.
Some teams darkened their scoreboards and lowered their flags to half-staff, while others wore helmet decals or black ribbons.
The Giants wrote “S.H.E.S.” on the back of their helmets. New York wide receiver Victor Cruz played the game in honor of 6-year-old victim Jack Pinto.
After learning he was Jack’s favorite player, Cruz wrote “R.I.P. Jack Pinto,” ”Jack Pinto, my hero” and “This one is 4 U” on his shoes and gloves for the game against the Falcons in Atlanta. Cruz said he called the boy’s family after hearing he was a Giants fan and was told they planned to bury him in one of Cruz’s No. 80 jerseys.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Cruz said. “There are no words that can describe the type of feeling that you get when a kid idolizes you so much that unfortunately they want to put him in the casket with your jersey on. I can’t even explain it.”
Cruz told WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Monday that he will visit Pinto’s family sometime this week.
“Sometime this week I definitely plan on going up there,” Cruz said in his weekly spot. “Just visiting with the family for a little awhile and talking to them. Just spending some time, try to put a smile on their faces in a tough time.”
“I’m pretty down to say the least,” Cruz said after the Giants’ 34-0 loss in Atlanta, according to the New York Daily News. “It’s a game that we needed and it’s a game that we wanted to play well in. Unfortunately we didn’t do that at all. To compound that with the tribute that I paid to Jack today, it’s unfortunate. I’m sad about it. As an athlete, we have to go through it and get over it, and as a person I have to keep plugging and understand that I did something good for a good family.”
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said his players were deeply affected by the tragedy.
“Being close to home, the players were greatly upset about it,” Coughlin said. “Many of the players have young children so they can empathize with the parents who had young children killed.”
The Jets will wear a helmet decal on Monday night as a tribute to the victims.
The Patriots, the closest team to Newtown that played at home on Sunday, wore a helmet sticker with the city seal and a black ribbon on it; the cheerleaders and mascot wore black armbands, and owner Bob Kraft pledged $25,000 to the community, where he also owns a box-making factory. Before the game, the public address announcer asked for silence while 26 flares were sent into the air.
But each time the Patriots scored in the 41-31 loss to San Francisco, the soldiers in the End Zone Militia clapped their empty hands like the rest of the crowd. Bob Elliott, the group’s sergeant, said the Patriots asked the group, which has been standing sentry at home games since the mid-1990s, to skip the ceremonial fire.
“Out of respect for those that were killed, we were asked yesterday not to fire the muskets, which we all agreed with,” said Elliott, who is a manufacturing manager for a dental implant-maker. “It was just such a horrific thing. It’s hard to put it into words.”
The Sunday Night Football broadcast on NBC was moved to CNBC and the NBC Sports Network while President Barack Obama addressed the nation. The game returned to its regular channel after the president’s remarks from Newtown.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt wrote “Newtown, CT” on one of the gloves he wore in warmups and on both of his shoes for the game.
“We’re playing football, and there’s something much bigger going on in this world,” Watt said. “I just wanted them to know, and I wanted everyone to know, that our thoughts are with them. Nothing is bigger than that. We played our game today, but honestly our thoughts are with them, the families, the teachers, the friends, the first responders, who had to go see that. My dad is a first responder. They were just kids.”
In St. Louis, the players who wear No. 26 — Rams running back Daryl Richardson and Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield — joined hands in a circle with their coaches at midfield before their game, surrounded by dozens of children wearing jerseys.
“I have a son that’s in kindergarten. It choked me up because I would hate to be one of those parents,” Rams running back Steven Jackson said. “You drop your kid off at school and he or she wants to go there and learn and better themselves, and to then go to the school and find that your child will no longer be with you. I couldn’t imagine that thing.”
Flags were also at half-staff in Baltimore, where the scoreboards went black as the public address announcer asked the crowd at the game between the Ravens and Denver Broncos to observe “silent reflection” in the wake of Friday’s “horrific tragedy.”
“As a parent you drop your kids off at school many times,” said Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, whose 21-year-old son Michael fell into a Wisconsin river and drowned in January. “It’s hard to put into words what that community and those families must feel like. We obviously kept them in our prayers.”
A moment of silence was observed at all 14 NFL games on Sunday; in Houston and in Arlington, Texas, the scoreboard went black. Members of the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks stood quietly with their heads down on their sideline while fans stood silently at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
In Chicago, Green Bay wide receiver Donald Driver retweeted the names of the victims. St. Louis defensive end Chris Long said after the 36-22 loss the Vikings that it was hard to feel sorry for himself.
“As we sit here and feel sorry for ourselves after losing a football game, it really helps put things in perspective,” he said. “I was watching TV last night and saw a victim’s parent and I was really moved by that, the strength that they were showing up there. If we can all show that strength, we’ll be all right as a team and as people.”
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