Family first: What if QB misses the game?

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
3:15
PM ET
Jim Harbaugh lives football. It's in his blood.

So, when a reporter asked whether the San Francisco 49ers' second-year coach would have missed a season-opening game at Green Bay to attend the birth of his son, Harbaugh sounded incredulous.

"Wild horses couldn't have dragged us away from this game coming up this Sunday," Harbaugh said.

[+] EnlargeKevin Kolb
AP Photo/Scott BoehmArizona's Kevin Kolb appears willing to prove that he puts family far ahead of football.
Harbaugh's wife delivered their first son, Jack, five days before the game. But if the delivery had conflicted with the game, Harbaugh would have missed the birth.

"Jack Jr. will understand in 20 years. He wants to win, too," Harbaugh said. "And my wife would understand, too. She wants us to win, too. They would understand, but it was great to be there for it."

Family first. We speak and hear that mantra frequently, but we don't always live it. When an employer is shelling out millions, as the 49ers are for Harbaugh, there can be an expectation work will come first in the absence of a tragedy.

The Harbaugh mind-set came to mind Friday upon learning that Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb would miss the team's game against Philadelphia if his wife, Whitney, went into labor with the couple's third daughter Sunday. She is about 38 weeks pregnant. The child could come any time. If that time comes Sunday and Kolb decided to be with his wife, the Cardinals' outlook against Philadelphia could change.

"I'm not going to miss the birth of my child," Kolb told Fox. "If it happened Sunday morning, I'm not missing it."

This seems like such an admirable position to take, but what if he missed the game?

The Cardinals have paid nearly $20 million to Kolb over the past 13 months. Arizona is 2-0 and, minus Kolb, could be left in a tough position at quarterback while John Skelton recovers from injury (his status for the team's game is not yet clear). The Cardinals are seeking their first 3-0 start since the team moved from St. Louis before the 1988 season.

Should factors such as these influence expectations for a player in Kolb's position? Comments Brian Billick made in 2007, when he was the Baltimore Ravens head coach, have stuck with me through the years.

"You always ask your family to recognize, 'No, I don't love my job more than I love you, but you're more forgiving, so naturally you're going to get the brunt of it because the job is unforgiving and relentless,'" Billick said then. "So, if something needs to give, it's going to be your wife and kids because they will."

Billick was speaking in general. Childbirth is different from the typical family matter, of course.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recently said he would put the birth of his child before a game -- even if it meant missing the 2012 opener.

Kolb is prepared to make a similar call, if necessary.

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