A kicker’s mind is supposed to be clear.
They live by rituals – preparing exactly the same way before each kick. They often stand at the same place on the sidelines; ask that the holder places the ball just so; take the same number of steps backwards to get into place, then – only when they’re ready – will the action begin.
Then the kicker thinks about nothing except swinging his leg.
No one yet knows what was on Matt Bryant’s mind today. But every parent can imagine what burden was laying upon his heart.
On Wednesday, Bryant, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ placekicker for the last four seasons, and his family awoke to discover 3-month-old Matthew Tryson Bryant dead in his crib. As of now, there has been no announcement as to a cause.
Matthew was the youngest of Matt (shown with Melissa and son Tre prior to Sunday’s game) and Melissa’s two sons. His funeral was Saturday.
Going into the game, Bryant was one of the game’s most accurate kickers. He’d not missed a field or or PAT in five and eight tries, respectively. He remained perfect Sunday, hitting three PATs and field goals of 23, 36 and the game-winner from 24 yards during a 31-20 victory.
There may be some who criticize Matt for playing on Sunday. I am not among them. Nor do I think any parent would be.
They can only imagine his pain. And they never want to imagine his grief.
Grief requires peace. Grief requires finding a place where one can make sense of the senseless.
Grief requires finding a place in the mind that can be clear while the heart tries to mind.
Everyone has a different place. For some, it’s a place of solitude. For others, it may be a place that holds 65,857 people.
Matt Bryant’s place of peace and clarity was where it always is – on the football field.
A place where every parent’s prayers were with him.