HOUSTON - As NFL teams returned to practice Wednesday, some conversations turned to football. Not all.
The operative topic remained the demonstrations of unity each team showed last weekend in response to remarks by President Donald Trump, and what might be ahead.
Here's a sampling of what those clubs are saying and planning:
Star defensive end J.J. Watt, who helped raise more than $37 million in relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey:
"I think that I can speak to what I've seen recently in the last month or so and the incredible nature of people coming together and the unity people showed in the midst of Hurricane Harvey, in the midst of Hurricane Irma, everybody in Puerto Rico helping out. It's incredible to see what people do when they come together for a common cause.
"And obviously it's a very difficult time in our country. There's division. But I think that I can only speak to what I've personally seen in the last month and that's people of all races, of all ethnicities, of all backgrounds, of all financial situations coming together to help each other out. And I think that has been such an incredible thing for me to witness, and it also gives a great amount of hope in my eyes.
"So I think those are the types of things we have to build off of. I think there's obviously a lot of things that conversations have been started and it's great. I think that the more we can come together and the more we can be unified the better off we're going to be."
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Coach Mike McCarthy said he is proud of the way his players have handled the decision to lock arms during the national anthem and ask fans in the stands and at home to join them. Packers players said the team would again stand and intertwine arms on the sideline during the anthem before the game Thursday night against the Chicago Bears.
Packers coaches and staff plan to join the players.
"The process that they've gone through, I'm proud of them," McCarthy said Wednesday. "The approach is one of a positive nature, and that's definitely the preference. Locking arms and honoring the flag, I think it's a very good thing."
Coach Dan Quinn expects players to lock arms, but not kneel, during the national anthem before Sunday's game against Buffalo. Quinn also encouraged fans to also lock arms during the anthem.
Two Falcons, defensive linemen Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe, knelt during the anthem before last week's game at Detroit. Falcons owner Arthur Blank joined Quinn and other players in locking arms while standing.
Quinn said he thinks Jarrett and Poe taking a knee was a "one-off for us" and the best way "to show how solid we are" is to have the team act in unison.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Coach Dirk Koetter was asked about the challenges of coaching football this week.
"Well, it's uncharted territory, that's for sure. It's something that is spread all across the country and everybody's talking about it right now," Koetter said. "My main job and our coaching staff's main job is to try to focus on getting our team ready to play the Giants this Sunday at 4:05, and that's what we intend to do. But at the same time, you can't ignore (it). You know the players are talking about it, the media's talking about it, the fans are talking about it, I'm sure players are talking about it at home.
"So you can't just stick your head in the sand and act like it's not there. It is and it's uncharted territory with no easy answers in sight right now."
Safety Glover Quin said he believes there's no misconstruing the president's message.
"I think hearing the president say what he said, it really put focus on like, man, there's no gray area," Quin said. "You're either on one side of the fence or you're on the other. There is no gray area, and the comments the president made, you can clearly see what side of the fence he's on.
"There's only been one white guy that took a knee, the guy in Cleveland? So when you say, `Wouldn't you like to see an owner when those guys take a knee?' He might've just said what he was thinking in his head. He might as well have just said exactly what he was thinking in his head, as opposed to saying `those guys."'
Linebacker Brandon Marshall is among the players who believe Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed by NFL teams over the movement he started last year when he declined to stand for the "Star-Spangled Banner" during the 2016 preseason to bring attention to racial inequality in America. Kaepernick remains unsigned six months after opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers and becoming a free agent.
"The dude, he's in shape, he's yoked, actually," said Marshall, who saw his ex-college teammate on a TMZ video recently. "He's so strong. He's ready to go. He told me he's been working out when I last talked to him. He said he's just waiting for a call. That's the next step."
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