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
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
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
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.”
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