Heavy-Hearted Parking Lot
The scene outside FedEx Field is subdued, reminders of Sean everywhere.
Must has run into 50 people with Sean Taylor jerseys on, and this was pretty early this morning while the lot was probably 10 percent full. There were banners draped on cars saluting Sean, saying how much he is missed, referring to his nicknames like "Meast" (half man/half beast).
I parked where I usually do and made the same walk to the press entrance, stopping to chat with Jared Rosen "The Tailgate King" over in the Purple lot, G 20, a pre-game ritual of mine.
Jared and I always share a few thoughts, but today I hung out with him and his crew for about 15 minutes. Jared has been parking here for four years, using his boss's parking spot and always drawing a big crowf. He always wore a Taylor jersey to grill in, but today most of his friends were wearing No. 21 as well.
Finding one in a store was tough. One friend drove all over the area this week, from one Redskins store to another in Northern Virginia, Maryland. Finally, he heard there were a few left at a store in Annapolis, so he sped over there and got a ticket. Turned out the officer had just left the store to get a Taylor jersey himself, and no ticket was issued.
Jared wore a Taylor jersey over his suit to work this week then hung it on a hanger near his workspace for the day. He's 25 - a year older than Sean - and the loss has hit him more deeply then he imagined. He's stopped watching other sporting events and avoided the ESPN crawl at all costs, not wanting to see the words about Sean's murder.
He's also thought a lot about the two times he met Sean. The first was in September 2005, after the stunning Monday night win at Dallas (two deep passes from Brunell-to-Moss). He was at the game and talked to Sean as the team was departing afterwards, struck by his smile and candor.
Then, at the end of that season, on the eve of the game against the New York Giants (Dec. 23), Jared's mom happened to be at the hotel where the Redskins stay the night before home games. She bumped into Sean and asked if he would mind getting on her cellphone and chatting with her son, one of his biggest fans.
"He talked to me for like five minutes and we had a great conversation," Jared said. "He was telling me how excited he was for the game and about the streak (the Redskins were amid a five-game winning streak that propelled them to the playoffs for the first time since 1999). He was a good guy. It really humanized him and it was something we really appreciated."
People were congregating at the memorial outside the ticket office here, choking back tears. The grass area, with No. 21 painted on it, is filled with notes from youngsters, and stuffed animals and balloons. One father and son were walking to take a look, the boy, maybe 12, sobbing, eyes red. Inside the press box, members of the public relations staff were wiping tears away while watching a video presentation about Sean that aired on the Comcast pre-game show.
Bobby DePaul, a member of Coach Joe Gibbs's staff during Gibbs's first stint here and who is now in charge of pro personnel for the Chicago Bears, was here on a pre-scheduled scouting trip (the Bears play here Thursday). DePaul is from Bowie - he'll be heading back to his mom's house there to watch the Bears play at 4 pm after this game - went to Maryland and is a lifelong Redskins fan, and his heart went out to Gibbs and the entire organization.
"I can't imagine how hard it must be for them to play this game," DePaul said. DePaul was Gibbs's right-hand man as a novice coach early on, and said he did not have a chance to catch up with him mentor this week but knows he will. DePaul said former Redskins safety Adam Archuleta asked permission to attend Sean's funeral Monday in Miami, and he believes other Bears may be attending as well.
Sean's death has touched people across the NFL family, and I know there will be former Miami teammates and former Redskins teammates around the league who will be fighting back emotions as a moment of silence is observed before all games this weekend.
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