Mourning Cassel will start for Patriots

December, 14, 2008
12/14/08
11:48
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Cassel

With a heavy heart, New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel will start Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

Cassel's father was found dead Tuesday morning. The funeral will be held Tuesday.

Cassel left the Patriots for a day and returned to practice on Thursday, but the team has been noncommittal in declaring his status for the game.

Boston Herald reporter Karen Guregian asked former NFL quarterbacks Trent Dilfer and Jim Miller for their impressions of how difficult the game could be for a grieving quarterback.

"You have to be so locked in to play at the level he's been playing, you'll wonder how will this affect his focus," Dilfer said.

"Being back with his team and with his teammates may be good for him, but the challenge for him will be at the end of the week. How exhausted is he from the mourning and the grieving? Can he muster enough to perform regardless of that fatigue and the toll the grieving takes?"

One of the legendary performances in NFL history happened in Oakland on a night Brett Favre was grieving the sudden loss of his father.

Favre completed 22 of 30 passes for 399 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Green Bay Packers to a 41-7 victory.

"He murdered us," Buffalo Bills tackle Langston Walker, who played for the Raiders, told me earlier this year. "I played guard that game, and it was just to the point where we'd want to get off the field just to watch him. He was making every throw. He was just a man possessed.

"It was a real unfortunate situation that it happened after his father died, but it just shows the type of resolve and the type of character he has. Everybody congratulated him after the game. He played his [butt] off."

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