Standing on the New York Giants practice field Thursday, it was hard to look toward the east.
Morten Andersen tried not to do it while kicking field goals. Offensive tackle Lomas Brown seemed to shake his head every time he did.
Even Wellington Mara, the 85-year-old co-owner of the Giants, had trouble scanning the New York City skyline.
On a clear and perfect day, the cloud of smoke that obscured part of the skyline was a constant reminder of Tuesday's terrorist attack that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center and left thousands missing and presumed dead.
That's why the Giants and Mara applauded commissioner Paul Tagliabue's decision Thursday to call off all 15 NFL games this weekend out of respect for those who died.
``I don't know if I would have played,'' defensive end Michael Strahan said. ``At this point money is not important, keep the money. This is life. This is respect for everybody over there.
``I don't think anybody in New York cares about football now, including us as players. It's not really important. The right decision was made.''
Cornerback Jason Sehorn said the players union was unanimous in its desire to not to play this weekend.
``It would have been crazy to play a game on Sunday, knowing they are taking bodies out of that place five miles away,'' Sehorn said.
Brown said it was horrible trying to get ready for a possible game with the Green Bay Packers at Giants Stadium on Sunday. It would have been even worse playing.
``How can you sit in the stadium and enjoy a football game, and wherever you are sitting, you look and see smoke,'' Brown said. ``It just would not have been right. Just coming in here today was bad.''
``It was eerie,'' the 41-year-old place-kicker said. ``I was trying not to look. We were kicking field goals that way and it felt awkward. It just didn't feel right. It's time for us to pull back and go hug our kids and family and realize that our innocence as a nation has been shattered.''
NFL spokesman Joe Browne said the Giants would not have been asked to play at home Sunday in the shadow of the attack.
Tagliabue decided Tuesday to offer the Giants the option of moving the game to Green Bay, delaying it a couple of days or taking a bye, Browne said.
Mara said he was prepared to take the bye had the commissioner not called off this weekend's games.
``We would not have moved it,'' Mara said. ``We would not have played.''
It never came to that. The commissioner decided shortly after 11 a.m. to call off the games.
John Mara, the team's executive vice president and general counsel, ran to the practice field within minutes to inform coach Jim Fassel.
``There has been some criticism of the commissioner that he didn't come up with a solution when the bombs are still falling,'' Wellington Mara said. ``I think Paul's hallmark has always been 'You get it quick or you get it right.' He's always preferred to get it right and I think he has gotten it right this time.''
Wellington Mara took part in all three of the league's conference calls Wednesday and Thursday.
While there was unanimous support for the commissioner's decision from NFL teams, the older Mara said one or two clubs that he refused to identify didn't agree with the decision.
``If they made the decision themselves, it would have been different,'' said Mara, who has been in the league during three national tragedies.
He was at the Polo Grounds watching the Giants when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941.
He was at practice in November 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The NFL decided to play its schedule just two days later, a decision then-commissioner Pete Rozelle admitted was the worst of his career.
Mara was on his way to work Tuesday when hijackers rammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon and crashed another jetliner into a field in Pennsylvania.
``I think anything would have been desirable, preferable, to playing the games this weekend the way the players felt,'' Mara said.
Mara said this latest attack was different for him than the other two.
``I was at a very tender age at that time and I didn't know where Pearl Harbor was,'' Mara said. ``But I know where the World Trade Center was.''
And in case he forgot even for the briefest second, all he had to do was look to the New York City skyline. The smoke is a constant reminder.