"It's all coming on us pretty quickly," left tackle Nate Solder said late Tuesday after the practice.
The Patriots traded six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers for tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round draft pick in 2015.
The way the news unfolded created a challenging environment for players. One player described the initial parts of practice as funeral-like.
"It is difficult," acknowledged special teams captain Matthew Slater, one of the team's locker-room leaders. "You know a guy for a number of years, you get to know his family, his kids, and that makes it tough. There is always a human element involved.
"We signed up to do a job here, and we understand what that job entails, and we understand what comes along with that, but at the same time, you can't separate yourself from the human element, and the emotions and feelings that come along with it."
Solder, Slater, receiver Julian Edelman and safety Devin McCourty were the four main players speaking about Mankins in the locker room after Tuesday's practice (quarterback Tom Brady wasn't present). Others declined comment, allowing some of the more experienced players to have their voices heard.
Mankins' locker remained intact, with belongings inside and scattered on the floor, which reflected a player who was at the facility Tuesday and had been prepared to join his teammates at practice.
Solder still seemed to be coming to grips with the news.
"Man, what an awesome guy. What an awesome player. So honored to play with that guy. So honored to get to know him and his family," he said. "I can't say enough good things about him. Him and his family, he has great morals, great ethics, a great work ethic. He's a tremendous guy and is going to be great wherever he goes. So for the Patriots, we move on, as sad as that is. It's exciting, too, we move on to the thrills of the season."
Slater was asked how he thinks the locker room will respond to Mankins' departure.
"I think we'll definitely have to be very mentally tough during this time, because Logan brought a lot in the department of leadership, a lot in the department in toughness. He brought a lot in a lot of departments," he said.
"So we have to be mentally tough, we have to understand that Coach Belichick is always going to do what he thinks is best for the football team, and we just have to be resilient and move forward and there's still a job to be done. That's what we're here to do."