OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP) — Police have recovered the body of Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin’s son from an icy Wisconsin river and said Tuesday that they were trying to figure out how he died.
Michael T. Philbin, 21, disappeared early Sunday and was reported missing that night. His body was recovered from the Fox River by divers on Monday, but Oshkosh Police Chief Scott Greuel waited a day to release the name out of respect for the family’s privacy.
“We love Michael so much and will miss him dearly,” Joe Philbin said in statement released by the team. “He loved his family, friends and life. His memory will live on in the hearts and minds of all who knew him. We are appreciative of the prayers and the support of our family, friends and the Packers family.”
News of Philbin’s death comes as the Packers prepare to host the New York Giants in an NFC playoff game Sunday. The team canceled players’ media availability Monday shortly before Philbin’s body was found. Packers general manager Ted Thompson issued a statement Tuesday saying the team’s thoughts and prayers were with the family.
“This is an emotional and difficult time for them, and we ask that everyone respect their privacy,” Thompson said. “All of us in the Packers family share in their grief.”
It was unclear whether Joe Philbin will continue to work with the team this week. Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Monday that he has a contingency plan if Philbin needs time off but didn’t elaborate. Team spokesman Aaron Popkey declined further comment Tuesday, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the loss has been difficult.
“We all love Joe, me probably as much or more than anybody in here just how much he’s meant to me and my development,” Rodgers told ESPN-AM radio in Milwaukee during his weekly show. “Just how important it is, the time we get to spend each week, how he gets us prepared and just his presence around here, it’s just tough to see him and (wife) Diane and the family dealing with this.”
Joe Philbin is in his ninth year with the Packers, and his fifth as offensive coordinator. He and his wife have five other children; Michael had just turned 21 on Dec. 28.
Philbin disappeared after a night out with friends near the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh campus about 50 miles south of Green Bay. Greuel said no foul play is suspected and investigators were still working to determine if alcohol was a factor.
An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday in Madison but toxicology results weren’t expected to be available for at least a month, police spokesman Joseph Nichols said.
Investigators believe Philbin traveled the 20 miles from his home in Ripon to Oshkosh to visit friends. The group went out on Saturday night in the campus area but somehow Philbin got separated from them. Greuel declined to release any details during his news conference, saying only that Philbin and his friends visited various places during the night and the group mixed with other friends they encountered along the way.
A little after 2 a.m. Sunday, one of Philbin’s friends got a cellphone call from him. The call came from an area near the river but Philbin didn’t sound like he was any sort of distress, police said.
About half-an-hour later a security guard at a business along the river called police to report he saw a man in the river near a section of thin ice about 30 yards from shore, calling for help. Philbin never returned for his car or contacted anyone on Sunday, prompting his friends to call police that evening and report him missing.
Rodgers and the rest of the Packers will try to focus on football.
“Joe’s very important to our success,” Rodgers told ESPN radio. “I think as a player you love to play, you love the games, you love the preparation, but the thing that’s going to stick with you long after you’re done playing is the guys, is the relationships. That’s player to player, player to coach, player to support staff, player to personnel staff, player to fan, obviously. But the player to coach relationship is very special, to me it always has been. Joe has been a large part of my success as a player and growth as a person. ... (It’s) just really hard to see a good friend like that going through this.”
Rodgers said the team will try to honor the Philbin family by preparing “the way we’re supposed to.”
“If he’s not in this week, which nobody is expecting him to be in here, we want to make sure him and his wife and the family can have their time to go through their mourning and dealing with this knowing that we’re supporting him, praying for him,” he said. “I’ve talked to him. What do you say to someone that lost their son in a tragic way like this? At 21, there are no words that I can say to comfort him.
“(I) just wanted him to know how much I care about him and Diane and the family and that I’m praying for him, but I think once we get in here on Wednesday it’s going to be about beating the Giants and making sure we’re doing everything to be ready to play our best game.”