FOXBORO, Mass. — While the New England Patriots were whooping up on the New York Jets this past Sunday, James White was in a hospital room, silently supporting from afar.
The silence was necessary. He didn’t want to wake Xzavier, who’d entered the world just a few short hours earlier.
White is one of three Patriots players to miss a game for the birth of a child this season, along with linebackers Kyle Van Noy (Week 1) and Shilique Calhoun (Week 3). He and his wife, Diana, welcomed their firstborn Sunday morning.
“It’s definitely an exciting moment in life,” the veteran running back and team co-captain said Wednesday. “I always wanted to be a dad. Your wife goes through a lot giving birth to a kid, so it’s an exciting moment for the both of us. …
“And then for us to be able to watch the game with him being there, even though he was asleep and everything, it was a great experience, and I’m happy those guys went out and played well and got a big division win.”
While obviously exhilarating, White admitted those hours away from the team also felt a bit strange. Football players aren’t accustomed to sitting out regular season games when they’re fully healthy, and White had missed just three games period since becoming a Patriots regular in 2015.
Special teamer Brandon Bolden stepped up to fill the void, replacing White in two-back sets alongside Rex Burkhead and catching two passes for 21 yards in New England’s 30-14 victory.
“It was definitely weird,” White said. “It felt like I wasn’t a part of the team for a second. But those guys, they went out and played well. Rex played a lot, Brandon played a lot, Sony (Michel) and those guys did a great job. Like I said, it was a big division win.”
Bill Belichick is known for his no-nonsense and, at times, emotionless approach to the game, but White said the Patriots coach was “definitely supportive” of his choice to be by his wife’s side rather than suit up against the Jets.
“Like you’ve seen, we’ve had quite a few guys have babies during this season, so they’ve been supportive,” White said. “Obviously, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so he’s let our guys experience it.”
To Belichick, who beamed as he announced Xzavier’s arrival to the team during his postgame locker room address, the miracle of childbirth is just another variable that must be accounted for.
“I’ve coached for quite a while as a head coach in two different organizations,” the coach said in a conference call earlier this week. “I don’t think that’s ever been an issue. I’ve always talked about it with the player. It’s not like it’s a surprise. It’s something that there’s certainly a lead-up period to. (We) communicate about it, and depending on the time, the situation, the circumstances and all that, you take everything into consideration. Everybody wants to do what’s best, and we arrive at that conclusion.
“Again, there are a lot of variables on that — what the individual’s situation is with the birth, where the game is, so forth and so on. There’s a lot of things that could come into play. I think it’s just good communication and trying to find out as much information as you can. You never have all of it. Sometimes you have to call an audible, but you figure it out, and then just everybody has the best interest of everything that’s involved and try to make a good decision on that.”
White is expected to be back in the lineup this Sunday when the Patriots visit the Buffalo Bills.