"We go out here and almost kill ourselves playing football," Jones continued. "But we don't know. It's not life."
Junior wideout Antonio Carter agreed; "I'm distracted. I'll admit it. What's going on is heartbreaking. But then again, you've got to go on with your life. Our job is to get ready for this weekend's game."
With last Saturday's scheduled game with Southern Miss postponed indefinitely, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione gave the team time off over the weekend. Physically, the athletes benefited. But they would have given anything for the circumstances to have been different. "We were glad that we had a couple of days off, but under the circumstances it was tough," senior placekicker Neal Thomas explained. "That's just how it is. The off day came at a good time, but you hesitate to say anything. What happened last week was terrible.
"Like everyone else I did watch TV (this past week). As much as I could, I guess. You can't say anything really--about what happened. I really don't know what's going on anymore than everyone else in this nation."
Tide athletes Nautyn McKay-Loescher, Gerald Dixon, Waine Bacon and Marvin Brown, all have family members living near New York City or the nation's capital. And thankfully all of their close relatives are safe.
But the players understand the implications of Wednesday's savage attack on their country. "Theo (Sanders, junior tight end) has a Dad and a sister that are in the army," Jones related. "If we go to war, then he thinks they might be among the first people to go. I know all of them real well. I know them personally. It'll be sad for them to go to war, so it makes you think."
Senior defensive end Kindal Moorehead added his thoughts; "Like the rest of the country, we needed a little time to get our minds right. That was a horrible thing that happened. It's impossible to get over. It's going to be in the back of everybody's mind. But we have to move on."
Football can be a grinding, exhausting sport to play. And unwelcome though it was, the players made good use of the extra time. "Oh yeah, I got plenty of rest this weekend," Carter said Sunday after practice. "I think the team did a good job of resting, and it showed. We came out here focused and had a good practice today. Now we need to stay on the line. We've got tomorrow off to get our legs back a little bit and come back Tuesday and Wednesday to get ready for the weekend."
Added Moorehead; "I think we were able to get some rest. I know I did, and I think a lot of other guys did. I went home and got some sleep. A lot of guys got a chance to go home and see their families."
"Today was a good day," Thomas agreed. "We had an extra day to prepare for Arkansas, and that's good. I think the mood of the team is great. We're going to bounce back and hopefully do well."
Normally Sundays are a day to correct problems from the weekend's game, a time to re-teach while mistakes are still fresh on the players' minds and a chance for athletes that didn't play in the game to work off the rust with some live scrimmage work.
But this Sunday the Tide had an extra day to prepare for their next opponent, the Arkansas Razorbacks. "We put the time off to good use," Jones said. "But you don't ever want to not play a game for something like this. Another reason would have set better with me, but not this one.
"Seeing what happened on TV, understanding all the lives that have been lost--all the families that were hurt. It hit me real hard."
A return to classes Monday will help everyone get back into their weekly routine. And like the rest of the country, the Tide players will return to the business of living. "We'll be able to move forward," Moorehead said. "This is our job. This is what we have to do. This is what we're here for. We just have to do it."
Carter added; "I think we're ready to play. We've got a big game this weekend--CBS--prime 2:30 slot on Saturday. Coach Fran helped us by giving us a break this weekend. And I think we came out today and had a good practice."
Last week, with repeated television replays keeping Wednesday's horror fresh on their minds, the team had to struggle to stay focused. But in a way the disciplined regimen of football practice should actually help. Jones explained; "I think we've got our minds right. Over the weekend we had time to dwell on it and think about it. It was a problem, but I think we're fine right now. We've got to get it out of our minds, because we know we've got to get back and get ready for the game.
"Our first priority is to care about our friends--about those people that lost their lives in New York and D.C. But you've got to get over it. You've got to live."