I was about to begin this Monday as I do every other Monday: with a reflection back on the Sunday that was, followed by injury updates and an assessment of the impact of those injuries, and then more reflection, more analysis, and more wondering about what it all means. Even though every Monday there’s still one game left in any given week, with the majority of the games completed and the Sunday hangover slowly subsiding, it always feels like the beginning of a new cycle.

And we’ll do all of that, and do it in abundance. But right now let’s pause for a different kind of reflection, because after what Torrey Smith did last night, everything else seems so very inconsequential.

That’s because, frankly, it is, and it always has been. Football, like all sports, is a digression, a passionate personal interest that we follow intensely. It becomes a sort of hobby when we make it into a game — fantasy football — and in turn obsess over that game.

Smith had six receptions for 127 yards while scoring twice during the Ravens’ dramatic win over New England last night, and he did it all after his 19-year-old brother was killed early Sunday morning in a motorcycle accident. It’s quite rare that I nod in agreement with anything Deion Sanders says, but there I was with a seemingly involuntary movement when the NFL Network crew was discussing Smith’s emotional performance. Sanders said that similar to those who watch and consume the game, football is a passionate interest that’s turned into a job for most players, one in which they thrive and become heroes.

But Sanders added that at its core, the game is still, well, a game. For us, the audience who tunes in every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday to escape the stress and worries of everyday life, it’s jarring when that same daily existence and the life circumstances that can emerge from it come into play.

We’ve seen this in the past when Brett Favre threw four touchdown passes a day after his father’s passing. Scenes from that game still induce instant shivers.

“For some guys in the midst of tragedy, sports becomes the one thing that allows you to forget about all the other stuff.”

I don’t know Smith on a personal level, but I feel for him as a person because I’m capable of expressing basic compassion, as we all are. That, unfortunately, is where my comprehension of his loss ends. A loved one in his life is suddenly and abruptly gone. He has to go forward and deal with that now, and he’ll grieve every week while we watch, and escape.

He didn’t have to play last night. In fact, not playing would have been the more expected decision. How could football have possibly mattered? What importance could a game have just hours after a loved one was lost? How could he possibly care?

“It was tough emotionally,” Smith said during his post-game press conference. “I didn’t know how I would hold up. But thanks to my teammates and coaches, and all the support from really everyone around the league [I did].”

Smith did care, and he cared deeply. The game may have been a distraction for us, but for him it’s a support system, and something much deeper.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • LeSean McCoy’s light workload on Sunday is a touchy subject for his owners, and for LeSean McCoy. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • The Titans became the first team in NFL history to score five touchdowns of 60 yards or more in a single game. [Paul Kuharsky]
  • Kyle Shanahan’s Sunday exercise? Chasing replacement refs, of course. [D.C. Sports Bog]
  • The Saints’ offense didn’t score a point in their last six series Sunday. [Adam Schefter on Twitter]
  • A word about arbitrary end points. [Bill Barnwell]
  • Matt Schaub lost part of his ear. [The Big Lead]