Team Meeting Deals With Emotions, Uncertainty

The Rutgers football team certainly went through a lot of emotions since Oct. 16, and with a few days off because of a break in the schedule, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano gathered his team for a meeting. The Scarlet Knights talked about the injury to defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, life and continuing to press on during a team meeting Sunday.

With 10 days between games, Rutgers didn't practice Sunday, a day after a 20-point loss at Pittsburgh. But they did do something very important as the Scarlet Knights ready for the stretch run of the season.

They met and talked.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said there was a team meeting Sunday night to discuss a number of topics, and the condition of paralyzed junior defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was a main focal point.

"We had a good meeting last night, and the kids have a couple of days here to themselves and then we'll get back into it," Schiano said. "I just think everybody kind of needs to sort through things themselves, and then come in and attack the preparation for South Florida (on Nov. 3)."

With what transpired since LeGrand was injured Oct. 16, Schiano acknowledged the Scarlet Knights may not have been able to compete for 60 minutes with Pittsburgh.

After the game, several players admitted they were emotionally drained.

"I think last night was good," Schiano said. "Without any deadline ahead of us, we had a chance as a team to talk through some things. Certainly, the unknown is always a scary thing, but I think there's a strong belief within our team and this family, and there's a strong belief in God and what he's capable of doing.

"So I think that's where everybody kind of left (things) last night, with that confidence and reassurance and really just committed to praying for Eric and his family and committed to getting a rest and regrouping and coming back and playing the game that we all love."

Schiano said LeGrand's condition remains the same; he has no movement below his neck. It means the players are dealing with a great deal of uncertainty regarding their fallen teammate.

"It's definitely a challenge, but we don't get challenges that are bigger than we can handle," Schiano said. "I think that we have to work our way through it. There's fear, there's anxiety, there's all those issues.

"I think some of the best things we can do is get that out in the open and deal with them, and realize we are part of competitive athletics and there will be a game next week, and we put an awful lot into this.

"It's a game we love. It's a game that Eric loves. Whether we're good enough to go out and win the game, that's another story."

Schiano also talked about trying to keep the Scarlet Knights (4-3, 1-1 Big East) focused on the final five games of the season after such a catastrophic injury.

"I think it's very difficult to do, but that's the world," Schiano said. "One thing that I've tried to explain to our players is the world is a tough place, and even though we had a very tough situation that kind of puts things in perspective, you still have a game Saturday.

"Now, having said all that, I don't know if emotionally, we had enough in the tank to compete in a game (against Pittsburgh) that was going to take every bit of our emotional, physical and mental strength to win. At the end of the day, it is what it is."

Rutgers was tied 14-14 at the half against Pittsburgh, but was outscored 27-7 in the second half and continually missed assignments.

The Scarlet Knights will practice Wednesday and Thursday, get Friday off and then begin preparation for South Florida on Saturday.

"We have a chance to catch our breath here, so we're going to try and take advantage of that," Schiano said. "We're a little beat up, emotionally kind of warm down, but we will get back at it and I believe it's a group of tough people that will respond."

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