Players react to tragedy

<P>As they gathered for their first practice since Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., several Raiders players said they would be in favor of postponing or canceling this weekend's games. </P>

''My feelings are, and I feel very strongly about this, that we still have a dire situation in New York and at the Pentagon and I think it would be appropriate for us to use Sunday as a time of reflection,'' said defensive end Trace Armstrong, who is also president of the NFL Players Association.

 ''I know the players have been very vocal about what their feelings are. Given the nature of this (tragedy) and where the country could still be on Sunday, I'm leaning toward not playing.''

The Raiders are scheduled to host the New York Jets on Sunday in what would be Oakland's home opener. But following Tuesday's attacks, in which two airliners were flown into the World Trade Center, followed by a third plane being flown into the Pentagon, the entire sporting world has been come to a standstill. Major league baseball has postponed all of their games until at least Friday, while tennis, golf and auto racing have all followed suit.

The NFL has yet to determine what exactly it will do. A league spokesman issued a statement on Wednesday saying the league would have an announcement regarding its plans within the next 24 hours. But already the Jets have said publicly they have no desire to play the game, in part because it means taking a cross-country flight from New York to California.

All four of the planes used in the terrorist attack were scheduled to fly from the east coast to the west coast.

 ''I think what happened yesterday is a threat to everybody in America,'' said Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde. ''People feel violated, and they should. All four of these planes were hijacked going to California, and we're going to California. That's nerve-wracking in itself. Even if everything goes accordingly and we get there safe, by the time we get off that plane we're all going to be shocked from nerves and the stress of not knowing. We'll be exhausted just getting off the plane. I don't think anybody wants to play this week.''

Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown is a member of the NFLPA executive committee, which is expected to meet tonight to discuss the situation. ''Obviously I can't make that decision, but I think the players will only be comfortable if there are some answers to what happened yesterday,'' Brown said. ''I just don't see that happening. It may not happen in the next month, but I think for us to go back on the field on Sunday will be a difficult situation at best.

I talked to Trace and I know where the players are heading. But obviously the league is going to make this final decision. I'm sure it's going to be based on security and if they can secure everything, then they'll play the games.

''Even if they can secure it, the fact that you're probably still going to have bodies in the buildings at that particular time would probably be inappropriate for us to be out there. But we're going to do whatever the league says. If they think it's best that we play, then we have to go out and play.''

Raiders tight end Roland Williams agreed. ''There are a lot bigger things than the NFL,'' Williams said. ''This is what we do for a living but obviously this is a tragedy. We have to be professionals and do whatever our employers want us to do. My heart is with everybody that went through this tragedy. I want to see what happened, see who did it and see what we can get done about it "

When President Bush talked (on TV) about the purpose of terrorism, to take us out of our whack and make us scared, I actually went out and got the video with Denzel Washington, Under Siege. It was similar to the same concept and the residuals of terrorism. Obviously we are a strong nation. I believe in America and I believe that we'll bounce back strong and like (Bush)said we will answer this test that we've been presented with. As professional athletes we're entertainers. We sort of take some of the stench off everything in life and that's what we have to do. If we get a chance to go out and have fun and get people's minds a little bit off what's happened I'll be glad to do that.''


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