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The New England Patriots silenced their “End Zone Militia” on Sunday night, paying tribute to the victims of the Connecticut school shooting by canceling the traditional scoring celebration in which men dressed as Revolutionary War soldiers fire muskets into the air.
Two days after 20 children and six adults were shot to death at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the Patriots joined the other 13 home teams across the NFL that honored the victims’ memory by asking for a moment of silence and darkening their scoreboards.
The U.S. flag was at half- staff at Gillette Stadium, and 26 flares were fired into the air in a pregame ceremony before the game against the San Francisco 49ers.
New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz, after learning that he was the favorite player of one 6-year-old victim, wrote “R.I.P. Jack Pinto,” “Jack Pinto, my hero” and “This one is for you” on his shoes for the Giants game against the Falcons in Atlanta. Cruz said he called the boy’s family after hearing he was a Giants fan and was told they planned to bury him in one of Cruz’s No. 80 jerseys.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Cruz said. “There are no words that can describe the type of feeling that you get when a kid idolizes you so much that unfortunately they want to put him in the casket with your jersey on. I can’t even explain it.”
The Patriots, the closest team to Newtown that was home on Sunday, wore a helmet sticker with the city seal and a black ribbon on it. The Giants, another popular team in southwestern Connecticut, affixed a decal with the school’s initials — “SHES” — on their helmets. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt wrote “Newtown, CT” on one of the gloves he wore in warmups and on both of his shoes for the game.
“We’re playing football, and there’s something much bigger going on in this world,” Watt said. “I just wanted them to know, and I wanted everyone to know, that our thoughts are with them. Nothing is bigger than that. We played our game today, but honestly our thoughts are with them, the families, the teachers, the friends, the first responders, who had to go see that.”
In St. Louis, the players who wear No. 26 — Rams running back Daryl Richardson and Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield — joined hands in a circle with their coaches at midfield before their game, surrounded by dozens of children wearing jerseys.
Chargers: Running back Ryan Mathews broke his left collarbone in the second quarter of the loss to the Panthers. Mathews broke his right collarbone in the exhibition opener.
Ravens: Wide receiver Torrey Smith and running back Bernard Pierce suffered concussions during the loss to the Broncos.
Vikings: Defensive end Brian Robison suffered a sprained shoulder in the first quarter of the win over the Rams and is scheduled to have an MRI today.