There’s no playbook for this sort of grieving. A Chiefs player killed his girlfriend – the mother of their infant child – then turned the gun on himself in front of the head coach and the general manager. The second half of the murder-suicide took place at the team’s training complex, right next door to Arrowhead Stadium.
The next day, the Chiefs reported for work in that very stadium for a game against Carolina. Won it, too, for just their second victory of the season. Afterward, everyone talked about the cathartic effect of taking the field – as a team, as a family – in the face of such a heinous act.
Belcher shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, at their home Saturday morning before driving to Arrowhead Stadium and turning the gun on himself. Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and defensive assistant Gary Gibbs witnessed Belcher commit suicide not far from where the buses were staged.
Veteran offensive lineman Ryan Lilja said he hoped the memorial would provide some closure for the Chiefs, who will try to win their second straight game Sunday at Cleveland.
“You got to try to deal with it however you deal with it, and grieve the best way for the individual,” he said, “and I think this is the best way for us as a team to get closure and move on and focus on football.”
Retired ChiefsHall of Famer Bobby Bell said Pioli and an uncle of Belcher’s spoke during the service.
“It’s done and over with, and people need to get on with their lives, and the team needed to try to get forward,” Bell said. “It’s tough on them. When you see somebody and play with them, you’re buddies, friends.”
Many of the players boarded coach buses after the service, but a few walked to their own vehicles with their wives and girlfriends.
“It was good,” running back Peyton Hillis said of the service. He wouldn’t comment further.
The orphaned baby, Zoey, is in the care of Shepherd, 56, who told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she still loves her son and that she considered Perkins “just like my daughter.”
“She was a lovely, beautiful young woman. And we had a beautiful relationship,” said Shepherd, who added that she had trouble eating and sleeping while working on her son’s funeral arrangements.
Zoey’s estate or guardian will receive more than $1 million under terms of the NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement.
She stands to receive $108,000 annually over the next four years, $48,000 in the fifth year and then $52,000 each year until age 18. She’ll continue to receive that amount until age 23 if she attends college.
Sometime down the road, Brady Quinn will have time to assess the events of the past few days and the impact they’ve had on his life.
That time isn’t at hand, not with the Chiefs preparing for Sunday’s game against the Browns in Cleveland.
“We’re still kind of in the midst of the storm right now,” Quinn said. “You’ve got to try to be able to climb to a higher point to get a better vantage point, and I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that until we have some more time away from the situation.”
“He was everything people knew about him — hard-working, blue-collar, tough, would do anything for anybody on the team,” Thomas said. “All he cared about was winning, and then all of a sudden the next year, all he cared about was trying to get his new contract.”
Thomas specifically pointed to Hillis leaving the team to get married during the season, at a time when he needed treatment for injuries.
“It was kind of one weird thing after another more than anything,” Thomas said. “We have guys getting married during the season and it’s not a big deal. When you’re ‘injured’ [yes, Thomas used air quotes . . . take that, Kuselias] and you should be getting treatment, to go do your own thing repeatedly was just disrespectful more than anything to his teammates.”