Crennel attempts to focus on football following tragedy

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

When he saw Jovan Belcher arrive at the team facility Saturday, Kansas City Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel did not yet know Belcher had just killed his girlfriend.
He did not know the linebacker had killed Kasandra Perkins, the mother of the couple's 3-month-old girl. Crennel knew only that Belcher had a gun.
"He hadn't told me anything about that," Crennel said in an even tone during a Monday press conference. The coach tried to turn the media's focus to football, but the questions remained centered on Belcher's shocking murder-suicide. "I didn't know what had happened. All I know was it's a player with a gun, and I know that's not a good thing."
The coach tried to convince Belcher not to end his own life, he said.
"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," Crennel said of his conversation with Belcher, shortly before the player shot himself in the head.
Crennel remained composed Monday, with a few exceptions, as he spoke into the cameras two days after the horrific event.
The only time he raised his voice slightly was in a response to a question asking if he had seen Belcher in those conditions before.
"What conditions?" Crennel said, an edge to his tone. "I've never seen him with a gun. Never, ever, OK?
Asked another time what might have made Belcher snap, Crennel was even keel when he said, "Now you're trying to make me a psychologist, and I'm not a psychologist. I don't know what made him snap. I was surprised. I can't answer that question."
With questions arising about whether a head trauma could have caused a shift in Belcher's personality, Crennel was asked if Belcher ever sustained a head injury.
"I don't know that he had," he said.
While Crennel and the Chiefs tried to move on from the tragedy by focusing on football, the daunting task of finding a routine after the tragedy would come with less fanfare for the family of Belcher's 22-year-old victim. The Perkins family released a statement expressing gratitude for support and a request for privacy.
"On behalf of the Perkins Family, we appreciate the outpouring of love and concern for our Kasandra 'Kasi' Perkins. Our hearts are truly broken for Kasi was a beloved daughter, granddaughter, sister, mother, cousin and friend. At this time we request the media respect our privacy during this difficult time as we grieve for our loved one. Please keep us in your hearts and prayers as well as the Belcher family for two lives were loss. Again we thank you for your support, our wish is for Kasi to be remembered for the love she shared with us all. Kasi will be truly missed!"
For better or worse, Crennel's attempt to deal with witnessing a traumatic scene meant trying to get back to normal. Asked what it was like to walk into work Monday at a place where he had witnessed such a horrific event -- along with general manager Scott Pioli, who also saw Belcher kill himself -- Crennel said it was routine.
At least as routine as it could be.
"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 that the events are over and you can't undo them. They've been done, you cannot undo them. So the only thing you can do is work for the future and toward the future."
Crennel opened his press conference by thanking several people around the Chiefs' organization for their support and commended his team for its effort in Sunday's game, a 27-21 win over the Carolina Panthers. Some questioned whether the game should have been played a day after the tragedy, and quarterback Brady Quinn said after the victory, "I think it was an eerie feeling after a win because you don't think you can win in this situation."
However, Crennel said he thought the win and just playing the game helped his team deal with grief.
He then tried to put his focus on this week's opponent, the Cleveland Browns.
"We know that we have to deal with the events of the last few days, and it's not over and it might not be over for some of us for most of our lives, but time heals all wounds, and so we're gonna start working on the time thing and trying to focus on our next task, which is the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland," Crennel said near the beginning of the press conference.
Crennel went on to say he was in "a good mental state." While grief counselors were available on site for players and staff, his only venting had been to his family.
"I know my daughters and my wife, they tell me that I must be crazy, that something should be wrong with me," he said. "But I can deal with stress, I can deal with grief, so I'm dealing with it by trying to be the leader that those young men upstairs need."
One of the Kansas City players hardest hit by the deaths of Belcher and Perkins was running back Jamaal Charles. Charles' wife, Whitney, and Kasandra were first cousins, and it was Whitney who introduced Kasandra to Belcher several years ago.
"It's a double-whammy for Jamaal; he lost two people in this incident," Crennel said. "He's taking it kind of hard. It's a tough situation, and I think, Jamaal, we'll be able to work through it and we'll help him do that."
Jamaal Charles issued a statement Monday: "Our family has suffered a personal tragic loss. Kassandra Perkins was in-fact first cousin to my wife, Whitney. As this is a very tough time for our family, I ask that we are respected as we grieve. Kassandra was not only family, but a friend and a loving mother. As my actual family and my Kansas City Chiefs family have been altered forever, we ask that you keep us and most importantly their child in prayer. Thank you for all your continued support."
No arrangements had been announced as of Monday afternoon on funeral services for Belcher or Perkins. Those figure to come up in the coming days, and there's no question Chiefs players and personnel will want to attend and grieve with the families.
The Belcher family also released a statement, via TMZ:
"As a family, no words can express the sorrow we feel over the loss of Jovan and Kasandra. The impact that this inconceivable tragedy has had on our heart is immeasurable; we are overwhelmed with both sadness and confusion.
"Jovan was our son, brother, uncle, cousin, nephew, grandson, and friend and we will miss him and Kasandra dearly. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Perkins family as they mourn.
"We loved Jovan. His kindness, humility, respect and gratitude for family and friends were steadfast. The man we know and loved for 25 years embraced life and excelled at all he put his energy behind. Jovan was overjoyed when Kasandra gave birth to their daughter, Zoey.
"He was happy to be a new father. Both he and Kasandra loved Zoey greatly. The immense outpouring of sympathy and support from Jovan's friends, teammates, coaches and fans have been a reflection of the impact he had on so many people. Like them, we will cherish the wonderful memories we have of Jovan and we pray that those memories will bring us peace as we grapple to understand the unpredictable and tragic ending of his life and the life of Kasandra Perkins.
"As we attempt to grieve in the aftermath of this tremendous loss we ask that you please respect our privacy in doing so. Only GOD can mend our hearts."

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