Obligations to Stevie Johnson's family and team could be in conflict this week.
Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone might choose to eliminate the burden for him.
Johnson's mother died unexpectedly Saturday at her Northern California home. Rhonda Lewis was 48.
Johnson will fly to California to mourn with his family. Beyond that, Marrone indicated he didn't know and was unconcerned with Johnson's availability for practice this week or Sunday's home finale against the Miami Dolphins.
"We know that Stevie's going through a personal tragedy," Marrone said this afternoon at One Bills Drive. "He's been great as far as his communication. Whether is affects practice or the team, we'll go ahead and report it, but we don't have anything to report on it."
Marrone has expressed the importance of family over team, whether it's a player leaving the team to attend the birth of a child or more somber moments such as the family disaster running back C.J. Spiller faced in the preseason.
I asked Marrone today if he would consider ordering Johnson not to play so the Bills' top receiver wouldn't feel emotionally torn about grieving with his family and missing a game.
"I do believe in that, yes," Marrone said. The coach added he wouldn't hesitate to make a call that was in the "best interest of the team or the best interest of you, individually."
Marrone recounted a story from 2001, when he was an assistant coach for the University of Tennessee. His wife was about to deliver their first child, but the No. 6 Volunteers, very much in the national title hunt, were playing Kentucky on the road.
Marrone was conflicted, but Tennessee coach Phil Fullmer told him family was the priority.
Fullmer and Tennessee athletics director Doug Dickey ordered Marrone to stay in Knoxville for as long as possible before driving three hours to the game. Dickey arranged for Marrone to use their private plane if Helen Marrone went into labor while Doug was away.
"Fortunately, we were able to work it out to where I was able to be at the game and still be there for my daughter being born," Marrone said.
The gesture turned out to be unnecessary, but Marrone never forgot it.
"God or my faith is No. 1, and my family is No. 2," Marrone said. "Football is No. 3.
"If you say that and you believe in that, you've got to practice what you preach. A lot of times when you make decisions, that's how I think about things."