Crennel to Belcher: ‘Life is not over’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, one of the last people to see Jovan Belcher alive, said he didn’t know what was troubling Belcher at that fateful moment Saturday morning shortly before Belcher took his own life with a single gunshot to the head.

Crennel, who did not specifically address Saturday’s events during his press conference after Sunday’s win over Carolina, did so Monday.

Crennel acknowledged that he and general manager Scott Pioli encountered Belcher in the parking lot outside the team’s practice facility.

Crennel could see that Belcher had a gun with him, but said that he did not know that Belcher had just an hour or so before shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, at their home in eastern Kansas City.

“He hadn’t told me anything about that,” Crennel said. “I didn’t know what had happened. All I knew was that there was a player with a gun and I know that’s not a good thing.”

Crennel added that he had never seen Belcher carry a gun before.

“Never, ever,” Crennel said.

Crennel then attempted to urge Belcher not to commit any acts of violence with the gun.

“I was trying to get him to understand that life is not over,” Crennel said, “and that he still has a chance, and let’s get this worked out.”

Belcher, though, moments later moved behind a vehicle as he saw police arrive in the parking lot. Then Belcher shot himself.

Crennel said he does not second-guess his approach with Belcher that morning.

“No, I don’t question what I said at all,” he said.

Exactly what put Belcher in the state of mind to commit the murder-suicide remains a mystery, and apparently Belcher did not confide in Crennel that he was under extraordinary stress.

“He didn’t talk about major troubles in his life,” Crennel said. “Everybody has issues in their personal life. All of us here have issues in their personal life. We all handle them differently. And from dealing with Jovan, he seemed like a strong individual.

“He was a leader. He sat in front in the classroom. He led the drills. You’re surprised by the events that took place.”

Dealing with the aftermath of Belcher’s rage is the primary focus now for Crennel, who has been trying to reconcile the player he knew with the one who committed the heinous act Saturday morning.

“What Jovan did we’re not crazy about,” Crennel said. “We didn’t like it. But he is still part of our family. You go out into society and things like that happen in society and you don’t see people throw family members out the door. They’re still loved by family members. But you don’t like the act.

“And so, now, you move on and deal with it. You don’t have a choice. You have to move on.”

Step one for Crennel was coming back into work on Monday and stepping through the same parking lot where Belcher shot himself.

“It was like any day walking through the door and walking through the parking lot,” he said. “But you think about the events. But the events are over and you can’t undo them.

“I’m in a good mental state. My daughters and my wife tell me I’m crazy and that something should be wrong with me. But I can deal with stress and I can deal with grief. I’m dealing with it by trying to be the leader these young men need. They’re young and they need a good leader.

“We know we have to deal with the events of the last few days. It’s not over. And for some of us we’ll be dealing with it for the rest of our lives. But time heals all wounds. So we’ll start working on the time thing.”

Crennel said the tragic events of the weekend have not changed his philosophy, and perhaps may have even reconfirmed his approach.

“Nothing is promised to us in this life,” he said. “You need to live your life the best way you can because tomorrow is not promised.”

Much of Monday seemed quite normal for the Chiefs.

They
gathered for their normal team meetings in the morning, and watched
video of their win over Carolina. They broke mid-afternoon to begin
planning for next Sunday’s visit to Cleveland.

Still, there were signs at every turn that nothing was quite as usual.

Chiefs
chairman Clark Hunt routinely sticks around the day after a game, but
this time he was there to lend support to an organization in mourning.
Chaplains were also at the facility, as were outside counselors brought
in to help players and staff come to grips with tragedy.

”It’s
new territory for everyone,” tight end Tony Moeaki said. ”We’re all
trying to figure out how to handle the situation. We’re just trying to
take it one day at a time, come into meetings; it’s nice to be in
meetings, watching film. Your mind’s not on it as much.”

Linebacker
Brandon Siler said he spent Thanksgiving with Belcher and ”it was
Thanksgiving as you know it, all laughs and praying and loving.”

”It
was hard to walk back in the parking lot, but it was harder to sit in
the meetings,” Siler said. ”He sits right beside me. That was hard.
You keep looking at that seat, thinking he was going to show up at some
time, you know? That’s hard.”

Players were also struggling to
reconcile the man they knew with the man who murdered 22-year-old
Kasandra M. Perkins, and who left a 3-year-old girl, Zoey, an orphan.

”I
try not to do it, really,” right tackle Eric Winston said. ”I just
try to accept the fact who he was pre, and who he was after, and I’m not
sure those thoughts can live together, but until the end of the season,
that’s just going to have to do.”

Yes, there is still a season to be played.

The
Chiefs visit the Browns on Sunday and visit Oakland the following week,
before returning home to play Indianapolis. Their season finale is Dec.
30 at Denver.

”It’s something that there is no textbook on how
to handle, and how to feel, and there’s a lot of emotions, confusing
emotions,” center Ryan Lilja said. ”But we’re going to try to get back
to football as best we can, and let guys grieve whatever way they need
to, and be respectful of that, but we need to try to be back on
football, and it’s going to be tough.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.