Adrian Phillips began the tradition back in middle school. Before every practice and game, he would take a moment and a knee and say some prayers.
“I’m always praying for my family, friends, guys out on the field that we don’t get injured,” Phillips said. “But, depending on the times that we’re in within the world, like if there’s, God forbid, a mass shooting or a lot of deaths and stuff, I pray for those families and everything, but it’s more of just for me to stay grateful and not take anything for granted. It’s kind of how I was raised and how I grew up and so it always stuck with me.”
Over the last week, Phillips’s prayer list has included Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills safety who suffered cardiac arrest on the field Monday night in Cincinnati against the Bengals.
The Patriots safety said he was watching the game with his wife when Hamlin collapsed and acknowledged it was a difficult time.
“I was grateful that the TV didn’t show everything that was going on, just because it was already so traumatic,” said Phillips. “But it definitely is hard to separate the human side from the sports side because at the end of the day, we all want to play the game as hard as we can, but we all want to go home. And that just kind of put a lot of stuff into perspective just because it was such a routine play that you see so many times. So, it was just a scary situation, and it was tough to see.”
Phillips is expecting a very emotional pregame scene Sunday when the Patriots face the Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y. He said there’s really no way to prepare for an unprecedented event. On top of the emotions, players still must refocus on the game.
“I would just say you just try to go through it the best you can. You say your prayers, you talk to the players on the other side, let them know that you’re praying for them, and then just go out there and have the mind-set to win the game,” he said. “That’s pretty much all you can do. Just be in the moment at the time, just understanding you’re on the field and we all have a desire to be in the playoffs and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to get to the playoffs.”
Two starters unable to go
The Patriots ruled out a pair of starters for the game as cornerback Jalen Mills (groin) and tight end Jonnu Smith (concussion) were unable to completely recover following recent returns to practice.
This will be the sixth straight game that Mills, the club’s normal right corner, has missed. He finished the season with 31 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 5 passes defensed.
Smith’s final line was 27 catches for 245 yards and one rush for 5 yards. To help fill Smith’s role, the Patriots elevated Matt Sokol from the practice squad for the third time this season, including last week’s win over the Miami Dolphins.
The club also elevated linebacker Calvin Munson. This is the first activation of the season for Munson, who has played in 42 career games for the New York Giants, Dolphins, and Patriots and made 45 tackles.