Niles Paul's teammates understand the contributions he makes on the field and his importance off it. On Thursday, they reacted to news of his season-ending injury.
A locker room leader. Special teams star. Needed asset on offense.
All three have been used to describe Washington Redskins tight end Niles Paul, whose presences goes far beyond the X's and O's.
On Thursday night, Paul, a fifth-year tight end, suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
As he laid on the ground, Darrel Young, one of Paul's closest teammates, knew the injury was serious as could feel the emotion coming out of the Nebraska product as he said "this was supposed to be my year" per ESPN.com's John Keim.
"That's when he started crying and I lost it," Young told Keim. "I've only seen him cry twice, and this is the second time. The other time was family related, so I knew it was something serious."
Paul, who re-signed with the Redskins in the offseason, had worked hard in his transition to tight end, especially this year when he added double-digit weight to his frame.
Thursday even marked the first time Paul was the team's first tight end in game action since moving to the position following the 2011 season.
As he announced that the injury would sideline Paul for the season, head coach Jay Gruden said what happen is "a huge loss for us."
"One, he's a great player who has worked so hard to get where he is, and two, he's a great leader for this football team," Gruden told the media after the game. "The staff and players are sick about it right now. He's going to be okay, but it's a major loss. It puts a lot of pressure on us, but we'll have to make due. It's hard for us on the field and off the field, but he's going to work hard to get himself right."
Check out images of veteran tight end Niles Paul during the 2015 offseason.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III said Paul's the perfect example of a player that leads by example.
"He's one of your war daddies," Griffin III said. "He's going to show up to work every day. Great in the pass game, physical in the run game, he sets the tone. You don't even have to bring up special teams, he's been awesome on teams. Somebody's going to have to step up."
Linebacker and special teams ace Adam Hayward echoed Griffin III's sentiment, pointing to Paul's versatility.
"The guy worked his way up to the number one tight end spot and he's good, he's fast, he can catch, he can block, on special teams he's going to hit you," Hayward said. "It's hard just to find guys like that who can all around just play."
Along with Paul's injury, running back Silas Redd Jr. also suffered a right knee injury and had to be carted off the field with a cast on his leg.
While the Redskins will miss their production on the field, their wellbeing means a lot more right now.
"I know most people think of that as far as a tight end and a running back going down, but like I said, those are two of my brothers, two close friends of mine, and to see them go down I felt selfish because it hurt me," Griffin III said. "I know it hurt a couple other guys on the team that are really close to them as well. But we're praying for them and we're feeling for them. Right now for those two, football doesn't even matter. It's more on a personal level for me."