Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox returned to practice Wednesday after going home for 10 days because of the death of his mother.
He said it was good to be around supportive teammates and coaches, who actually did not know his mother was ill until the day he left camp on Aug. 10 to go home to be with his family. He said he did not want that knowledge to influence their evaluation of him.
“Just the player I am,” he said. “I have stuff at home, but I try to deal with that at home. Not here.”
In training camp, Wilcox stood out with his aggressiveness, physicalness and presence around the ball. He had an interception in the second preseason game. But he also had a fumble on a punt return, and coach Jason Garrett said the rookie needed to exert maximum effort on every play.
“I tried not to let that hinder me from my performance and let my teammates down,” Wilcox said. “So I deal with that off the field, and when I’m on the field, I let it go and just use it as fuel to keep pushing.”
Two days after the Oakland game, when he had the interception, he was on a flight home to Cairo, Ga. His mother, 49, died in a hospital later that week. He said it was lupus in a lung.
“She was fighting it for a long time,” he said. “I’m proud of her. She was a strong lady. And I definitely want to stand up and fight for her.”
On one of the last days in practice, fellow rookie B.W. Webb wore Wilcox’s No. 27 jersey.
“When I saw that, it definitely brought tears to my eyes,” Wilcox said. “It let me know that the guys still love me and they're still backing me 110 percent when I'm not here, so that makes a difference.”
Wilcox said the entire organization was supportive.
“Text messages, the flowers and stuff, the coaches calling and checking up on me, the PR people – it was great,” he said. “That makes a difference when you have somebody that’s supporting you.”
-- Carlos Mendez