For three Green Bay Packers, the past few weeks have been one of the most challenging periods of their careers. On top of the daily difficulty and pressure of performing at a high level as a key contributor to a team making a push for the NFL playoffs, Nick Barnett, Na'il Diggs and Donald Driver have had to face some major off-field difficulties as well.
Just hours before kickoff in Philadelphia two games ago, Barnett learned that his father had passed away but played through the emotional pain against the Eagles and again Sunday at home against the Detroit Lions before heading to California earlier this week to attend the funeral and comfort his family.
Driver underwent a similar family tragedy as his father-in-law died suddenly Friday before the Lions game. The receiver played exceptionally well in the game, scoring the Packers' lone touchdown in the victory on a pass from Brett Favre. Driver missed Green Bay's practice on Thursday as he joined his family in their time of struggle. He will return to practice Friday.
Diggs' difficulty stemmed from an on-field event, as the linebacker suffered a kidney contusion in the game at Philadelphia. The fifth-year veteran spent two nights in a Green Bay hospital after returning to Wisconsin with his teammates and has been back on the practice field this week - but still out of action - after looking on as a spectator as the Packers defeated the Lions.
Each of the players said that being around their teammates has helped them to get through these difficult moments.
"Personally, getting back to work helps my situation," Barnett said in his first day back in Green Bay Thursday. "It helps me think less of what is going on at home and be able to just come here and focus on football. I was OK when I was out here playing, going through that whole week of training and playing that game. But then when I went home, it was just a whole different feeling. So hopefully this will help me keep my mind off that and just keep playing.
He added that his teammates were very beneficial in keeping him going before he could get home and be with his family.
"It was tough, but the guys I've got here, they kept me laughing and kept me going," said the linebacker. "Everybody gave me their condolences, so it was a hard week but they made it easier for me."
Driver expressed a similar appreciation for his teammates and their role in getting through a tough time.
"You've got friends around," explained Driver. "That's the thing that can keep you laughing and joking. When you've got so many things that go on in your life, when you've got guys around you that keep you laughing, you know you can pretty much put it behind you until you go home."
Diggs recounted his Philadelphia experience Wednesday in his first interviews with the press since suffering the injury.
"It was very scary at first," said Diggs, speaking in front of his locker. "I've never been in an ambulance before and getting rushed off to the hospital with people panicking to take care of your health is always a scary situation. But luckily through time and some healing, I came back pretty well and pretty fast. I still dawn upon every now and then about what happened, but at this point in time, I don't really want to think about it or worry about it."
He said that he's eager to get back on the field as quickly as possible.
"It's going to take a little time for me to get back into it. I feel like I missed a month just by missing a few practices and a game. It feels like forever for me. I feel like I need to jump back into things to get back into it and jump back in without any doubt."
While Diggs isn't yet sure if he'll be able to return to action Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he knows he wants very badly to be out on the field with his teammates.
"It's hard to say right now," he said. "Mentally, I think I can play. I'm ready to play Sunday mentally. Physically, we won't know probably until Friday or Saturday.
"It's like people sitting on your shoulders. One's saying 'Look what you're missing.' The other one's saying 'Look what you could do to yourself.' So in this situation, life always wins over job. So it's really a clear-cut decision, but it still pains me to sit out and just to watch what's going on and know that you can't contribute to your team's effort."
All three of these players are key to the Packers' playoff push, but more than that, they're key to the Packers' family. Through these difficult times in their lives, their family in the locker room has been there for them just as they will be through anything that may lie ahead.