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Patriots running back James White on coping with his father’s passing: ‘My teammates were there for me all the way’

Related: Patriots running back James White pens emotional Instagram post to his son

NFL: New England Patriots-Minicamp Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Following the tragic death of his father, Tyrone, in a car accident two weeks ago, James White was back with the New England Patriots for Monday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. During his media availability session after the contest, the team captain also spoke about his late father and was visibly and understandably emotional while doing so.

“Honestly, all that stuff still seems kind of surreal to me,” White said.

“He meant everything for me. He pushed me. He wouldn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear, but he always wanted me to do the right things and push myself to be the best I could be. He made me who I am today.”

White, who noted that his father would send him text messages ahead of every game, and also did so on the day he was killed, missed two games before returning to practice earlier this week. Just a few days after his return, he also was back on the field as a key member of New England’s attack — one that played 53 percent of offensive snaps during his team’s 26-10 loss against the Chiefs, and registered 10 touches for 59 yards.

After his return to game action, he went on to praise the Patriots’ support structure and how teammates past and present helped him cope in such a difficult situation.

“My teammates were there for me every step of the way,” White said. “We’ve got a family like atmosphere in this locker room — from texts to phone calls to tweets to old teammates, fans. Everybody reaching out meant a lot. It was extremely tough for me. I mean, my mind still can’t really wrap itself around everything that went on. It’s just still trying to process everything. But just hearing from them and them being there for me definitely helped.”

One of those teammates, fellow captain Matthew Slater, talked about White’s importance to the team during his own postgame media session.

“It means a great deal for us to have him back, emotionally,” Slater said. “We feel like we’ve been in this with him, although none of can really identify with everything that he’s had to go through. But emotionally, it gave us a big boost. James means so much to our team.”

Slater’s remarks were also echoed by Damien Harris, who has been a part of the White-led running back room ever since he arrived in New England via the third round of last year’s draft.

“I can’t say enough good words about him,” Harris said about his teammate. “For him to be able to go out there and to play and to lead this team the way he did, it’s inspiring. It makes guys want to play harder. It makes guys want to do their job better knowing that we’ve got a guy like James White in our locker room — a guy that’s going to lead us no matter what.”

White, meanwhile, did not leave his own seven-minute interview without sharing some positive news as well: his mother, Lisa, who was also hospitalized following the car crash that killed her husband, appears to be doing better. She was originally in critical condition, but according to her son is progressing in a positive way.

“My mom’s continuing to improve and progress and get better, so that eases my mind a little bit, and being out on the football field eases my mind a little bit, too,” he said. “So I’m just trying to push through, because that’s what my dad would want me to do. So I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and find a way to look at all the positives in my life.”