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'It all hit us in the heart': Teammates react to the death of James White's father

The Patriots running back was inactive for Sunday's loss to Seattle following the crash that claimed the life of his father and left his mother critically injured.
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
New England Patriots running back James White warms up before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots' players were still struggling for the right words late Sunday after the father of their teammate James White was killed in a car crash in Florida.

White was inactive for Sunday's last-minute loss to Seattle following the crash that claimed the life of his father, Tyrone White Sr., and left his mother critically injured.

Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, and Rex Burkhead all spoke after the game and said they are trying to make sense of the tragedy while also being there for White.

"It's tough," Slater said. "It's really hard to put into words. We all have mothers and fathers, and to lose your mother or father is something that is never easy, and for a tragedy like that to hit the way it did, it hit us all and we're playing with heavy hearts."

"It put things in perspective," he added. "Football is a job for us. There are things in life that are so much bigger than this game. Today was a reminder of that. Life is such a fragile thing... For our brother to lose his father and his parents to be in that accident, I think it hit us all in the heart. I don't think we've processed it yet. I think that'll be something that takes time."

Slater said there are very few teammates he's played with who have the character White does, and it's hard to explain how much he means to the team.

"It's devastating," safety Devin McCourty said. "It's been just a rough year. Our hearts are heavy for James. It's just tough, man. There's no words you can say, there's nothing you can do in that situation. We just wanted to go out there and really play our hearts out for him. It's just devastating. I was heartbroken for him."

Running back Rex Burkhead got choked up while talking about the situation.

"A lot of emotions," he said. "Just thinking about my brother James. Unbelievable teammate, unbelievable person and player, and just, it's family. It's a tough deal what he's going through... He's a man of character. This is definitely tough seeing him hurt right now."