I just thought it was appropriate to stay in because we know what went on this week with the comments that were made by the president. I felt like he attacked our brothers, my brothers in the league, so I felt that it was appropriate to stand up with them and stay in the locker room.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, meanwhile, said he believes that all players should continue to stand.
We need to look at the flag and listen to the national anthem, Rivera said. We need to think it and vision it for an America that we believe in, that is free from injustice, free from bigotry and free from prejudice. Then when you guys ask me, we tell you that … we believe in America, that we support our military, we support our first responders and we most certainly do not believe in racism and bigotry and we want to see that out of this country.
Kelly has been coaching for 27 years, and he said he has never seen someone like Smith, someone who set the entire tempo for everyone at practice — a linebacker, no less — someone who so greatly touched an entire team.
When we talk about this young man, unique’s not even the right word, Kelly said. He’s got incredible grit. He loves life, and he loves the challenges of it.
The Cowboys seemed to be one of the few teams who listened. It helped that their team doctor, Dan Cooper, performed Smith’s surgery just after the Fiesta Bowl. But even Cooper couldn’t guarantee that the nerve would fully regenerate.
Still, Dallas selected Smith in the second round, and the NFL — and a fan base — held their collective breath and hoped.