Football is an emotional game by nature, but it's impossible to imagine what Casey Hayward was dealing with when he took the field on Sunday.
The reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Month's brother tragically passed away earlier in the week in a car accident. Hayward was away from the team all week, dealing with personal matters far more important than football.
After the team's 19-10 win over the Browns, the cornerback was asked if he ever toyed with the idea of not playing.
"For sure, but I'm better when I'm out here," he said. "I'm better when I'm on the field."
"You never know (how someone reacts)," Head Coach Anthony Lynn added. "You never know if they're going to be in the game, or if they're going to play for his brother. You just don't know how they're going to respond. He wanted to play and be here with his teammates, and I thought he helped us."
So there Hayward was at StubHub Center Sunday, authoring another brilliant performance in what should be another Pro Bowl season for the cornerback.
His task on the field was as tough as they come in trying to contain Josh Gordon.
One of the game's elite receivers three years ago, Gordon even led the league in receiving yards in 2013. However, he had not played in a game since 2014 after multiple suspensions for substance abuse. Thus, no one knew what to expect out of Gordon come game time.
Hayward obviously had more important matters to tend to during the week, but he spent almost all day Saturday watching film on Browns' wide receiver. The talk all week long was how Gordon would go off for a monster game.
Instead, Hayward kept him in check, limiting Gordon to only four catches on 11 targets for 84 yards.
"(It was like) cramming for a test," he said. "I think I might have got a B-plus…He's a good player. I think that we held our own out there. We held him under 100. I know some of the guys on TV said he'd go for over 100. Me and Trevor (Williams) take challenges like that. I hope they go back and talk about it tomorrow and say (we) played pretty good against him."
Overall, the star cornerback finished with three total tackles and two passes defensed. While Hayward kept his focus on what went on between the white lines, his teammates couldn't help but admire the way he handled a tragic situation.
"Casey's just unbelievable," Adrian Phillips said. "A very tough situation to handle; and to deal with all those emotions (and) come back and play a full game not even a week later is a testament to how mentally and physically strong he is. We tried to make it easier for him to show how much we care for him. We are brothers, and I pray for him every single day."
"I was able to send him a note when it first happened and when we first found out," added Philip Rivers. "I know guys are flooding him with (messages) and talking to him. You kind of leave it to his closest buddies on the team. You don't want to wear him out when he is getting talked to all the time, but I was able to send him a note. He addressed everybody yesterday and Anthony Lynn mentioned something just now in the locker room. I think Casey is thankful and we are certainly thankful for him as a brother. Losing a brother, I can't even imagine but he is thankful for the brotherhood we have in the locker room. He is a guy that really embraces that, being a teammate and being a group of brothers. I know the defensive backs are tight, but it really is a close team; a neat team to be a part of. Casey really appreciates that so I know it was probably somewhat helpful for him to be around the guys again."