Chiefs begin picking up pieces after heartache

The Kansas City Chiefs returned to work Monday at their practice

facility near Arrowhead Stadium, trying to find a sense of normalcy

after two days of unimaginable heartache.

It proved nearly impossible to do.

The locker that once belong to Jovan Belcher, the linebacker who

killed his girlfriend and then turned the gun on himself Saturday,

still had all his belongings in it. His shoes were piled up on the

floor and freshly laundered clothes hung from a hook.

To enter the building, Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel and general

manager Scott Pioli had to walk past the place in the parking lot

where Belcher put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, and

Crennel admitted that an unsettling feeling came over him.

Teammates gathered in meetings and to watch film from Sunday’s

27-21 win against the Carolina Panthers, one that ended an

eight-game losing streak. They couldn’t help but notice the empty

seat that once belonged to their close friend.

”We have to deal with the events of the last few days, and it’s

not over, and it may not be over for some of us for most of our

lives, but time heals all wounds, and so we’re going to start

working on the time thing,” said Crennel, who’s been a rock for

everyone in the organization.

”It was like coming to work like you normally do,” he said.

”Now you think about the events as you walk through the door and

walk through the parking lot, but you know the events are over, and

you can’t undo them. All you can do is work for the future and

toward the future.”

Following the emotional victory over Carolina, Crennel declined

to discuss many of the details surrounding Belcher’s suicide. He

shared a bit more on Monday while attempting to prepare his team

for the next game, including his exchange with the linebacker

moments before his death.

”I was trying to get him to understand that life is not over,

he still has a chance and let’s get this worked out,” said

Crennel, who didn’t know about Perkins’ murder while he talked to

Belcher.

Crennel, who has coached at the college or pro level for more

than 40 years, said he had never seen Belcher with a gun before,

and expressed his concerns over players owning firearms without

knowing the laws.

”Generally what we’ve attempted to do was tell them to know the

law, turn your gun in to our security people, let us hold onto it

and then after that, if you need it, you can take it home,” he

said. ”You can go put it in your safe or whatever you need to do

with it, but the law allows for them to have guns.”

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.”

Online: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL