Quarless returns after daughter's death
Sixth-year tight end missed first days of practice, spoke to the media Monday after his daughter died at birth last week
Andrew Quarless fought back tears Monday while revealing that he missed the first two days of training camp after his daughter died at birth last Wednesday.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy originally said the sixth-year tight end was excused from practice for a "positive personal situation" on Thursday before changing his tone Friday, saying Quarless was dealing with a "very difficult family situation."
Quarless returned to practice Saturday in a limited capacity and addressed the media for the first time after being a full participant in Monday's padded practice at Ray Nitschke Field. A few of Quarless' family members attended the practice, including his 5-year-old son.
"It's the saddest day of my life," Quarless said. "I thank this team for the type of support they have given me to help me get through this. Just very thankful for these guys. It's really a family in here. It's really a family.
"I'm looking forward my first day getting back out there today. It felt real good. It felt real good just to get out there, catch some passes, be able to run around a little bit, kind of get back to your old self and get back into things."
Quarless turned to social media on Monday evening, introducing the world to his daughter, Arielle Cecilia Quarless, who weighed 7 pounds, 13.7 ounces upon her birth at 4:16 p.m. on July 29.
After thanking his teammates and coaches, Quarless added: "My life will never be the same but with everybody's help we have been able to celebrate and honor my daughters life and this means the world to me I promise.. We were planning to have a baby instead we had an angel #GodsGifts"
It's been a difficult month for Quarless, who was arrested July 4 in Miami Beach after allegedly firing two shots from a handgun into the air after an altercation with a group of women, according to police.
The same report stated Quarless tried leaving the scene and hiding the semi-automatic handgun in a potted plant outside a restaurant before being apprehended. He pleaded no contest last month and has a court date scheduled for Aug. 24.
Quarless could be subject to possible discipline for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy, but said he doesn't know whether he'll face suspension. He didn't offer anything further, not wanting to downplay anything. Right now, Quarless knows the best he can do is to try to redeem himself.
The Packers, thin at tight end, have stood by him since the incident first occurred, though Quarless initially feared the Packers might release him. Instead, it resulted in a lengthy conversation with McCarthy, during which he repeatedly apologized for "bringing negativity to this place."
Quarless said McCarthy was "very upset" at the start and you could see why. Earlier this offseason, quarterback Aaron Rodgers unabashedly praised the tight end for the steps he'd taken. Quarless also spoke during April's tailgate tour about becoming more of a leader in the locker rooms.
McCarthy's advice for Quarless was direct and simple — to "just focus" and not "be too hard on yourself." In the weeks that followed, Quarless tried to channel that into his training and point to positives in his life like the upcoming birth of his daughter.
"I was looking (to find) a little bit of happiness in my daughter," said Quarless, pausing. "You just can't take life for granted.
"Life is serious. I'm a role model to a lot of kids. I was able to have my first (football) camp this year. A lot of things have been able to help me mentally. But you can't take things for granted and I don't take this organization for granted and I don't take my position for granted. I'm just really, really thankful. That's the main word I can really use is thankful for this group of guys."
Quarless said he received a lot of hugs in the locker room after he returned to the team. As difficult as the past few days have been, the pair of 21/2-hour practice sessions have provided a temporary escape from what's going on outside.
When he first returned Saturday, many teammates and coaches immediately embraced him and offered condolences. That same sentiment echoed in the locker room throughout the weekend.
"Obviously, our role is just to support him and hurt with him," kicker Mason Crosby said. "We're a family here in the locker room. He's going through a tough time and the pain of that you just don't understand it. I've never been through anything like that, so just be there for him and support him and show that empathy there, and make sure he knows we have his back, and we love him and love his family."
Quarless got choked up a couple times when discussing his son's presence at practice Monday, adding that "he was really looking forward to being a big brother." On the field, however, he looked at ease.
After taking only one team snap Saturday, the 6-foot-4, 252-pound tight end took on a more active role Monday. He stepped in with the starting offense, where he's competing with second-year tight end Richard Rodgers, second-year tight end Justin Perillo and three other rookies.
It was a challenging day, but it was successful in coaxing the smile out of Quarless that had been missing for the past week.
"Today was rough," Quarless said. "I'm a little drained. I was drained the past couple of days. Just to get out there today, it was a great feeling. It was a great feeling being around my teammates having fun and actually smile. Actually to smile and be happy, that was good for me."
Now, Quarless hopes to put the past month behind him, while learning from both experiences. He cherishes the memory of his daughter and wants to repay his teammates and coaches for their encouragement.
Quarless defines the Packers' chemistry as "special" and believes it ultimately will help them chase down another Lombardi Trophy. Personally, he knows he must prove himself again, but is grateful for the support system surrounding him.
"As you grow older as a man, you really understand life and you really understand things," Quarless said. "I'm so appreciative of this team. Even from the incident earlier in the month, there's just been so much support. More than I feel like sometimes I might deserve. Just the amount of love from everybody, it's really been good for me. It's hard to explain how much that means to me. I'm just thankful."
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.