KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs are rallying around long snapper James Winchester, whose father Michael was killed by a former Southwest Airlines employee outside an Oklahoma City airport.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said that Winchester, who like his father played college football at Oklahoma, had returned to the state to be with his family. Reid was not certain whether the younger Winchester would be back for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.
"Tragic incident. Sick, to be honest with you," Reid said Wednesday morning, one day after the shooting took place. "He’s where he needs to be, and when he comes back, he comes back. But right now is his time to be with his family. Our hearts and prayer go out to him."
Oklahoma City police said Michael Winchester was leaving work for the day Tuesday when he was shot to death near an employee parking lot. The attack appeared to be in retaliation for circumstances that led to the gunman, Lloyd Dean Buie, leaving his job with the airline last year. Buie was later found dead in his pickup truck.
"It’s not something you ever expect to happen or think will happen in your wildest dreams," Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. "I think everybody is feeling for James and his family. Just a very, very crazy thing, to see it out there on media and things like that."
Smith called the locker room "a special place" where the younger Winchester will be welcomed back with open arms. Many current Chiefs have dealt with other tragedies over the years, notably the murder-suicide of linebacker Jovan Belcher that took place just outside the practice facility in December 2012.
"James is such a caring teammate, thoughtful teammate, a guy that would sacrifice for his team," Smith said, "so you’re feeling for him. You don’t always know what to do or say, but you just try to be there for him as you work through this. It’s hard."
Michael Winchester was a punter on the Sooners’ 1985 national championship team, and his son followed in his footsteps by playing in Norman. His sister, Carolyn, played on the women’s basketball team and another sister, Rebecca, was a rower for the Sooners.
James Winchester earned the long snapper job in Kansas City last season and fought off a challenge for it in training camp. If he does not return by Sunday, tight end Travis Kelce or fullback Anthony Sherman would handle his duties against the Buccaneers.
"You have to give him privacy, but we’re here," said Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt, who spends more time with Winchester than any other player, and who has spoken to him since the shooting.
"He’s in a good place right now. There’s forgiveness in his breath," Colquitt said. "He’s a great teammate, a great guy, and he’ll be ready to roll. He just has to take care of business right now."