Body of Packers assistant's son found

Updated: January 10, 2012, 4:45 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

OSHKOSH, Wis. -- Police have recovered the body of Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin's son from an icy Wisconsin river and said Tuesday that they were trying to figure out how he died.

Michael T. Philbin, 21, disappeared early Sunday and was reported missing that night. His body was recovered from the Fox River by divers on Monday, but Oshkosh Police Chief Scott Greuel waited a day to release the name out of respect for the family's privacy.

"We love Michael so much and will miss him dearly. He loved his family, friends and life. His memory will live on in the hearts and minds of all who knew him," Joe Philbin said in a statement Tuesday that was released by the Packers. "We are appreciative of the prayers and the support of our family, friends and the Packers family. We ask for continued respect and privacy for our family as we deal with our loss.

"Our family also wants to thank the Oshkosh Police Department, Winnebago County Dive/Rescue/Recovery Team and the Winnebago County Coroner's office for their efforts and compassion during this difficult ordeal."

News of Philbin's death comes as the Packers are preparing to host the New York Giants in an NFC playoff game Sunday. The team canceled players' media availability Monday shortly before Philbin's body was found.

Packers players are off Tuesday and the team has no scheduled media availability. But in an appearance Tuesday morning on ESPN Radio's "The Herd with Colin Cowherd," linebacker Clay Matthews said the team will dedicate Sunday's divisional playoff game against the Giants to the Philbins.

"The Packer organization is truly a family-first environment," Matthews said. "We feel for the Philbin family. I think it goes without saying that this game, and how we approach it, and how we play, will definitely be dedicated to him. Hopefully we do it the right way."

A solemn Aaron Rodgers reacted to the news on his weekly radio show on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee.

"We're all professionals," Rodgers said. "We have to be able to separate the on-the-field from the off-the-field stuff. And make sure when you're at work, you remain focused. But we're human as well, and the human element is that it's on your mind. You're thinking about it. You're thinking about Joe."

Rodgers said that "a lot of people" have visited the Philbin family home to express condolences and said he spoke with him as well.

"What do you say to someone who has lost their son in a tragic way like this?" Rodgers said. "At 28, there are no words I can say to comfort him. I wanted him to know how much I care about him and (wife) Diane and the family and I'm praying for him.

Philbin
M. Philbin

"But I think once we get in here on Wednesday, it's going to be about beating the Giants and making sure we're doing everything we can do play our best game."

Packers general manager Ted Thompson issued a statement Tuesday saying the team's thoughts and prayers were with the family.

"This is an emotional and difficult time for them, and we ask that everyone respect their privacy," Thompson said. "All of us in the Packers family share in their grief."

It was unclear whether Joe Philbin will continue to work with the team this week. Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Monday that he has a contingency plan if Philbin needs time off but didn't elaborate. Team spokesman Aaron Popkey declined further comment Tuesday.

Joe Philbin is in his ninth year with the Packers, and his fifth as offensive coordinator. He and his wife have five other children; Michael had just turned 21 on Dec. 28.

Philbin disappeared after a night out with friends near the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh campus about 50 miles south of Green Bay. Greuel said no foul play is suspected and investigators were still working to determine if alcohol was a factor.

An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday in Madison but toxicology results weren't expected to be available for at least a month, police spokesman Joseph Nichols said.

Investigators believe Philbin traveled the 20 miles from his home in Ripon to Oshkosh to visit friends. The group went out on Saturday night in the campus area but somehow Philbin got separated from them. Greuel declined to release any details during his news conference, saying only that Philbin and his friends visited various places during the night and the group mixed with other friends they encountered along the way.

A little after 2 a.m. Sunday, one of Philbin's friends got a cellphone call from him. The call came from an area near the river but Philbin didn't sound like he was in any sort of distress, police said.

About half-an-hour later a security guard at a business along the river called police to report he saw a man in the river near a section of thin ice about 30 yards from shore, calling for help. Philbin never returned for his car or contacted anyone on Sunday, prompting his friends to call police that evening and report him missing.

Information from ESPN.com NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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