Many members of the Pittsburgh Steelers were surprised to see Alejandro Villanueva emerge from the Soldier Field tunnel during Sunday's national anthem, according to a source.
Villanueva was the only member of the team to appear despite an expectation from Saturday's players-only meeting that the entire team would remain in the locker room.
He is a former Army Ranger who served terms in Afghanistan.
The left tackle was an important figure in Pittsburgh's protest planning because of his background. Players wanted to accommodate Villanueva, who expressed during their meeting that he didn't want to be singled out. Moving the protest off the field entirely was a way to keep solidarity without isolating an individual.
"That's where the confusion came in," the source of the anthem sequence.
Players discussed several potential methods of protest at that meeting, including holding hands on the sideline or laying hands on teammates who would stand or kneel. The team eventually moved their locker-room plan into the tunnel for time purposes.
"I don't want to go into that, but we support our guy Al. He feels he had to do it. This guy served our country, and we thank him for it," Cam Heyward said.