Washington’s ;  Antonio Gibson  after relationship denied his quitting ‘we’re all frusted

CLEVELAND — When Annette Williams walked into FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday, it felt like a bit of the world fell back into place. She or a family member had gone to every one of her son Antonio Gibson’s sporting events for as long as anyone could remember — until this NFL season. The novel coronavirus pandemic prevented her and her daughter, Danielle Moore, from continuing the tradition.

In Week 1, they tried to watch from home with an “NFL Sunday Ticket” code Gibson sent them. For some reason, though, it didn’t work, and they had to scoot to a nearby Applebee’s. Even when they figured it out for Week 2, cheering from the couch didn’t feel the same after years of hollering from bleachers all over the country as Gibson developed into a star.

Then, on Wednesday, Gibson called. Cleveland is one of eight NFL teams allowing fans in the stands this early in the season, and the rookie running back got tickets for the Washington Football Team’s game Sunday against the Browns. Mother and sister took Monday off work — Williams from a Medicaid transport company, Moore from a hospital — and booked flights. Suddenly, Williams was watching her son run onto the field for kickoff in the NFL.

“It’s surreal,” Williams said through a mask. “We’ve been talking about this since he played peewee football at like 5 years old.” She paused. “Always thought he had the talent to get here.”

Washington falls to Cleveland, 34-20, after five turnovers; Chase Young injured

On Sunday, family members of Washington players dotted the sections behind the east end zone, the ones usually reserved for Browns die-hards and called “the Dawg Pound.” Left guard Wes Martin’s father-in-law, defensive end Chase Young’s mother and sister, and others were a few of the 6,000 fans the Browns could host under an exception to Ohio’s coronavirus regulations. Their presence created a significant difference in the game-day atmosphere, said Washington cornerback Kendall Fuller, who added, “It just feels like you are in a stadium.”

Beyond the noise, which ebbed and flowed during Washington’s 34-20 loss, the family section looked like a science-fiction movie. The orange seats in which fans sat were the only ones not zip-tied closed. And while everyone wished the circumstances were different, no one could pass up this opportunity. They understand the fragility of a career in the NFL and the importance of being there, so they made it work. The tickets were hotly contested, and one family member looking at her phone said she was “getting cussed out right now” by a cousin who had just found out tickets were available.

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