NFL Nation: Jovan Belcher

On Monday, hours after firing yet another unsuccessful head coach, Clark Hunt reached out to season ticket holders of the Kansas City Chiefs with a personalized email.

In it, Hunt expressed his sorrow and embarrassment over what has become of the franchise that his father, the legendary Lamar Hunt, made one of the most respected franchises in NFL history. The young Hunt, who has always preferred to stay in the background, promised better days ahead.

By the end of the week, the franchise's CEO gave his fan base huge reason for optimism.

By hiring Andy Reid -- arguably the biggest and best name of the available coaches -- Hunt has shown he is serious about making his team a winner.

“This is instant credibility,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “It’s much like Denver hiring John Fox and St. Louis hiring Jeff Fisher ... it’s great for the long haul.”

[+] EnlargeAndy Reid
Eric Hartline/USA TODAY SportsAndy Reid brings lots of playoff experience and professionalism to Kansas City.
It became clear early that Hunt’s plan to revive the Chiefs -- who went from an expected playoff contender to a 2-14 team that has earned the No. 1 pick in the April draft -- was to get a powerful coach.

Four years ago, Hunt tried to keep the same structure that the franchise held from 1989-2008 when Carl Peterson ran the organization. Hunt hired Scott Pioli as general manager and it was met with high expectations because of Pioli’s success as part of the process in New England. The team parted ways with Pioli on Friday, shortly before finalizing the Reid hiring.

Pioli was the hot general manager candidate in 2009. Hiring him was a sign of Hunt going for it. Now, after the Pioli experience didn’t work, Hunt is going with a different strategy. But he’s still going for it.

Hunt is giving the power of the team to a coach. Reid will report directly to Hunt. It is a sign to the fans that Hunt is really serious about fixing this issue. A look at Reid’s track record suggests it is a worthwhile endeavor.

He won 130 games in Philadelphia and was a fixture in the playoffs. He knows how to run a team and an organization.

Reid is known for being a good man and for being a fair coach. He needs to create a happier atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium. Pioli was known for being abrasive to some employees and it wasn’t always a pleasant work atmosphere even though recently fired coach Romeo Crennel was well liked by players and team employees.

The tone of the atmosphere is set by the man running the program, and Reid can change the feeling around the building. The importance of that cannot be underscored. In Denver (even before Peyton Manning arrived), players and employees raved about the atmosphere Fox created after the not-always fun regimes of Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels.

The hiring of Reid and the departure of Pioli pushes the restart button for everyone involved. Everyone needs a new start.

In addition to the losing, the Chiefs had to deal with the December murder-suicide of starting linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend Kasandra M. Perkins. Belcher killed himself in front of Pioli and Crennel in the team’s parking lot.

Reid also is coming off a terribly painful season. His son, Garrett, died at the team’s training camp before a terrible on-field season commenced.

This is a fresh start for everyone. Still, there is plenty of work to be done.

Reid needs to find a quarterback and find a way to get success out of a talented but underachieving roster.

But Reid picked this job instead of talking to the Cardinals and the Chargers for many reasons. He likes the stability of the Hunt family. He likes the roster. He likes having the No. 1 draft pick. He likes the passion of Chiefs fans. He probably also likes the fact that coaching in Kansas City will be less of a fish bowl than in Philadelphia.

He likes the idea of making Arrowhead Stadium a dreadful place for opponents to visit again.

And Hunt likes the idea of Reid getting the job done. Will it work? That is to be seen. But there is no doubt Reid is equipped to handle the job, and give Hunt credit for quickly recognizing that in an attempt to end the misery in Kansas City.

Wrap-up: Browns 30, Chiefs 7

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
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A look at another Kansas City Chiefs loss:

What it means: The Chiefs couldn’t find a way to win their second straight game after a horrific tragedy that has affected the team. The Chiefs beat Carolina last week a day after starting linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins and then killed himself in front of key figures of the team's brass. Belcher's memorial service was Wednesday and many in the organization attended Perkins’ funeral in Austin, Texas on Saturday and then flew to Cleveland. The Chiefs were flat Sunday and they fell to 2-11. They are on pace for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. It was a lousy return to Cleveland for several Chiefs including head coach Romeo Crennel, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, quarterback Brady Quinn and running back Peyton Hillis. Hillis was booed loudly because of the rocky ending of his time in Cleveland last year.

Big day for Charles: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had 165 yards on 18 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Charles was among those at Perkins’ funeral. Charles has had at least 107 yards rushing in the past three games. He has 1,220 rushing yards this season.

New streak: Last week the Chiefs scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game for the first time since Dec. 2010. Charles' touchdown made it two straight games that the Chiefs have scored a touchdown on their first drive.

Quinn not effective: A week after being the AFC Offensive player of the week, Quinn struggled. He completed 10 of 21 passes for 159 yards and tossed an interception.

Bowe hurt: Star Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe left the game with an injury to his ribs and did not return.

Turnover problem getting better: Quinn wasn’t good, but the Chiefs are more careful with the ball than when Matt Cassel was the starter. The Chiefs have committed four turnovers in the past five games after committing 29 turnovers in the first eight games. Cassel was a big reason for the turnovers.

What’s next: The Chiefs play at 3-10 Oakland in a game that will have draft-choice implications.
The Kansas City Chiefs just announced they have formed a trust for the 3-month-old daughter of Jovan Belcher and Kasandra M. Perkins.

The trust has been established through contributions from the Hunt family as well as from players, coaches and staff to help Zoey Michelle Belcher. Jovan Belcher killed Perkins at their home and then killed himself at the team’s facility last Saturday.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and everyone affected by the heartbreaking events of last Saturday,” Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement. ”As we continue to struggle with the emotional pain from the tragedy, the Chiefs family is focused on helping 3-month-old Zoey Michelle Belcher as she faces the challenge of growing up without the support of her parents. Zoey will always be a part of the Chiefs family, and we hope that this trust will help to ensure she has the resources necessary as she grows up.”

According to the team, contributions may be sent to:

Zoey Belcher Trust

UMB Bank – Attn: Trust Division

P.O. Box 419226

Kansas City, MO 64179

Any checks should be made payable to:

UMB Bank, N.A., Trustee of the Zoey Michelle Belcher Irrevocable Trust.

Final Word: AFC West

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Three nuggets of knowledge about Week 14:

[+] EnlargeRomeo Crennel, Clark Hunt
Zumapress/Icon SMIThen-Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel gets a hug from team CEO Clark Hunt after an emotional win Dec. 2, 2012, the day after Belcher's murder-suicide.
Watching the Chiefs’ emotions: It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs react in this game. They got their second win of the season in Week 13, beating Carolina 27-21 at home in a contest charged by emotion. A day earlier, starting linebacker Jovan Belcher took his own life in front of coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli after he killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. What will the Chiefs be like at Cleveland on Sunday? Will raw emotion still fuel this team? A week has passed, but the grief is still heavy -- and it will be that way for a long time. It might do the Chiefs good to go on the road, where they can further bond. It was important that they were home last week, but this could be the next part of the healing process.

Pittsburgh has not been kind to San Diego: The 4-8 Chargers have lost seven of eight games and are one defeat from securing their first losing record in nine years. If history is any indication, it won’t get easier Sunday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Steelers are 14-0 all-time at home against the Chargers in the regular season.

Chargers need to stop the run: When the defense struggles, San Diego has a difficult time winning. That will be a key Sunday at Pittsburgh. The Chargers are 0-5 this season when they allow more than 115 rush yards.

D.J. Williams might get start

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
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It looks like D.J. Williams might get his first start of the season.

His outstanding replacement, Wesley Woodyard, is doubtful to play Thursday at Oakland. Woodyard, who leads the division with 100 tackles, was hurt Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Williams has been active for the past three games after serving a nine-game NFL suspension. Williams was a mainstay of the Denver defense until this season. Also, receiver Brandon Stokley is questionable with hip and wrist injuries. He missed the Tampa Bay game.

For Oakland, defensive tackle Richard Seymour will miss his fifth straight game with knee and hamstring problems. As expected, Oakland coach Dennis Allen returned to the team Wednesday. He left the tem Sunday night to be say his final goodbyes to his father, Grady Allen. Grady died Tuesday at the age of 66.

In other AFC West news:

Here are the Chargers’ tackle options for Sunday at Pittsburgh: Reggie Wells, Kevin Haslam and practice squadder Kevin Hughes. Two will start with starters Jeromey Clary and Mike Harris out. I’d guess Haslam at left tackle, Wells (who was signed Wednesday) at right tackle, and Hughes is promoted and is a backup. Yes, it is going to be a tough, tough situation at Pittsburgh.

In an Insider piece, Pro Football Focus has a look at the NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidacy of Denver linebacker Von Miller.

Elizabeth Merrill’s Hot Read on the tragedy in Kansas City is a must-read. Meanwhile, the Chiefs attended a memorial service for starting linebacker Jovan Belcher on Wednesday. He killed himself at the team facility after killing his girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins on Saturday morning.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 27, Panthers 21

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
4:49
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A look at an emotional win for the Kansas City Chiefs.

What it means: Oh, it means so much. This has to be one of the most memorable, emotional days in franchise history. The Chiefs won their second game of the season, just a day after a horrific tragedy. Saturday, starting linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins, and then he went to the team’s facility (adjacent to Arrowhead Stadium) and killed himself in front of general manager Scott Pioli, head coach Romeo Crennel and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs. There was a lot of talk that the game shouldn’t be played. But the Chiefs decided they wanted to play. This is just a game and it doesn’t change anything, but for three hours, it did help in some way. It was the Chiefs’ first home win of the season after starting 0-6 there. They snapped an eight-game losing streak, which was the longest current losing streak in the league.

Charles has big game despite major sadness: The tragedy had to hit Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles especially hard. ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Perkins was a cousin of Charles’ wife and they introduced Perkins to Belcher, who Charles was close with. Despite the incredible grief, Charles had 127 yards on 27 carries.

Quinn is effective: Kansas City quarterback Brady Quinn was 19-of-23 for 201 yards. It was perfect game management and what the team wants from him. It was Quinn’s first win as a starting quarterback in three years.

Streak is over: The Chiefs scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game Sunday. That hadn’t happened since 2010.

Touchdown party: Peyton Hillis, Tony Moeaki and Jon Baldwin all scored their first touchdowns of the season for Kansas City.

Milestone for Bowe: Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe passed the great Otis Taylor for third on the Chiefs’ all-time receptions list. Bowe now has 412 career catches.

What’s next: Crennel goes back to Cleveland as the Chiefs meet the Browns.

Clark Hunt discusses tragedy

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
4:03
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The Kansas City Chiefs released a transcript of a media briefing with team owner Clark Hunt on Sunday as he discussed the murder-suicide involving starting linebacker Jovan Belcher and his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins:

Opening statement: “It's been a rough 24 hours for our family and the entire organization. We have so many guys on the team and the coaching staff who are really, really hurting.”

On the state of mind of head coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and linebackers coach Gary Gibbs: “I spent the evening last night at the team hotel with them. I wanted to be there with the team, with the coaches, to let them know that I love them and that I know what they are going through. Particularly for the guys in the parking lot when Jovan took his life -- I know this has to be incredibly difficult. We have a lot of players that are really struggling, people who have spent countless hours with Jovan for several years, the linebacking group in particular. I just know it is going to be a very difficult day. I told them all we can do in a situation like this is pull together as a family and support each other.”

Where were you yesterday when the incident occurred? Were you in town? “Scott called me from the parking lot shortly after the incident took place, and I was informed at that time. I flew up in the afternoon to be with the team last night.”

On this tragedy compared to other losses suffered by the organization: “I spent a fair amount of time reflecting on the other losses the organization has suffered and no two of them are the same. Yesterday there were two victims; we lost two members of the Chiefs family. Kasandra was part of our Chiefs Women’s Organization and had done things in the community with the CWO group. They have a daughter now, Zoey, who is an orphan, and I just imagine how difficult that is going to be.”

Did the team give any thought to not playing this game? Did you talk to the league about postponing? “I had a number of conversations yesterday with Commissioner [Roger] Goodell, and at the end of the day, I decided to leave it up to Coach Crennel and the team. I asked Romeo to call the captains and ask the captains whether or not they felt we should go through with the game. Of course, the captains had been in conversation with their teammates, and they unanimously believed that the right thing to do was to play the game. So, that's how the decision was made.”

How eerie is this day today? “It's just different. I think you mentioned earlier, there's really nothing you can do to prepare for this. It's tough and, again, I come back to the fact that the guys rally around each other to make it through the day.”

What do you expect from the team today? “Honestly, I don't know. There are not a lot of examples like this that you can point to. I know they'll be out there battling for each other, but beyond that, I really can't say.”
Jovan BelcherJamie Squire/Getty ImagesChiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend early Saturday, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager, according to police.
The terrible tragedy of Jovan Belcher's murder-suicide is a moment in time that causes a step back. Sometimes we tend to treat players as commodities -- height, weight, speed, 40 time, salary-cap number, etc. -- rather than people. But players are not just numbers on a roster or spreadsheet. And some, like Belcher, carry demons that can manifest in the most horrific way.

I certainly dealt with players losing family members on the eve of games, most notably that memorable night in Oakland in 2003 when Brett Favre’s father died. Those experiences, while difficult, were nothing like what the Chiefs are experiencing now.

A tragedy such as this, as most, causes us to focus on what, if anything, could have prevented it. Let’s examine:

Security

In my experience, teams have secure parking lots and entrances to team facilities, requiring punching in pass codes for entry. Of course, these security measures are designed to protect players and coaches from external, not internal, threats.

As with many new initiatives, the Belcher case may force further implementation of team security. A player possessing and using a gun on himself within the team parking lot and/or facility is uncharted territory but will cause discussion on precautions not only for player entry into secure areas but also perhaps player screening at different checkpoints.

Mental counseling

NFL teams spare no expense on physical training: three full-time trainers, two team doctors and outsourced specialists. The disastrous Belcher event focuses efforts on the mental side.

All teams have Player Engagement Directors -- many of them former players -- to guide players in acclimating and succeeding outside of playing. They start with incoming rookies as “chaperones” at the Rookie Symposium, trying to earn the trust of incoming players. I know many of these directors and recommend some highly.

They are not qualified in areas of mental health counseling, however, and players do view some as “spies” for management. When I tweeted about them Sunday morning, LeCharles Bentley, a former player with the Browns, said of them: “Too busy trying to get dirt on players to run back and tell GM or Coach... A few good ones but way more bad ones.” Beyond these directors, teams have mental counseling available, usually directed to specialists when asked. After today, my sense is there will be refocus in this area.

As to NFL resources, the league instituted this hotline in July -- NFL Life Line -- with “with trained counselors who can help individuals work through any personal or emotional crisis.” Although the timing of the site was inferred by some as in response to the death of Junior Seau, whatever the reason it is important to have this available.

Of course, all the mental counseling resources imaginable -- whether through the team or the league -- are inconsequential if the affected person does not reach out for help. We may never know if Belcher showed signs of needing help or even if he sought it out. For the sake of his deceased girlfriend and orphaned baby daughter, we all wish he had.

Playing the game

Once the decision on whether to play the game was posed to Chiefs players, I expected the game to proceed as scheduled. Players want to play; it’s what they know, it’s what they do.

Putting aside the logistical concerns of not playing -- won-loss records, contractual clauses, broadcast and sponsorship issues, gate receipts, etc. -- this was a decision that had to be made once the players were consulted. The Chiefs will use motivation of Zoey -- the little girl now left without parents -- to fuel them.

It often takes a tragedy to focus on elements previously unseen and dormant. Let’s hope the Belcher tragedy can effect some positive change in the mental health and screening for NFL players.

Sunday notes: Bengals without Sanu

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
11:00
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Here are some notes heading into Sunday's games:

RAVENS: Ravens defensive lineman Art Jones was devastated by the news of Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who fatally shot his girlfriend Saturday and then committed suicide at Arrowhead Stadium. Jones was a childhood friend and former wrestling teammate of Belcher. "We would all share stories how we all would make it one day," Jones wrote in a text to The Baltimore Sun, "and dream about our first nice car and house we would all own one day, things we would buy our family. He was a super hard worker that never back down from the challenge. ... I'm thankful for all the great times that we shared together and all the great memories he is giving me. He definitely will be missed by me and all the lives that he has impacted."

STEELERS: The Ravens can win their fourth straight game over the Steelers today, something that hasn't been done by either team in this rivalry in 10 seasons. “They’ve beat us three times in a row. They kind of have our number right now,” safety Ryan Clark told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “But it’s like the same old Steelers going to play the Ravens, playing as hard as we can, and we’re going to try win a football game.”

BENGALS: Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is likely done for the season, according to the team's official website. Sanu, who had established himself as the No. 2 receiver opposite A.J. Green, is expected to go on injured reserve Monday after having surgery. He suffered a stress fracture in his left foot during Thursday's practice. Andrew Hawkins is scheduled to return today after missing the past two games with a knee injury.

BROWNS: Cleveland's run defense may be turning the corner. The Browns are coming off back-to-back games in which they surrendered fewer than 65 yards rushing for the first time since 1989, according to The Plain Dealer. "Guys are taking ownership of the defense," middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "Once you taste success it's like a drug, and you want to do anything you can to get it again." The Browns are playing at Oakland, which has the 29th-ranked run offense.

Utter sadness in Kansas City

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
9:23
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This has been on my mind all day.

Still, after traveling 1,000 miles, I have yet to reach any comprehension. I have nothing profound to say about the horrible tragedy this morning in Kansas City that has galvanized the NFL world, other than to say I have the same feeling you probably have -- utter sadness.

I awoke this morning to a text saying a Kansas City Chiefs player had killed his girlfriend and then shot himself at the team’s facility. The text said the player involved was linebacker Jovan Belcher.

Like so many at ESPN, I immediately worked the phones in search of more details of this mind-numbing event. As I traveled to Denver, I thought about what I was going to write in this story.

What could I say about this event that no one else is feeling or saying?

[+] EnlargeChiefs fans
John Rieger/US PresswireChiefs fans place a sign outside the team's practice facility, site of Jovan Belcher's suicide.
Thus, I want to join the masses, and express my thoughts and grief for the family of Belcher’s victim, Kasandra M. Perkins, who died at 22, and the couple's infant daughter. Lives were ended; others were ruined. So terrible.

I also feel bad for Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel. The Chiefs' general manager and coach were talking to Belcher, according to police, just before the player walked away and shot himself.

What a terrible and emotional event to witness. This day will be with these men for the rest of their lives; they will never be able to shake it. Pioli and Crennel went to work Saturday morning to put the finishing touches on another game week in a miserable season. Then they were thrust into the middle of a crisis involving a young man they had grown to care for.

I know Pioli and Crennel are not popular figures in Kansas City these days because of the team’s 1-10 season. There is a strong chance Chiefs ownership will make wholesale changes in a month.

What happens professionally will take its course.

I expect Kansas City fans to loudly support their hurting team Sunday when the Chiefs host Carolina at Arrowhead Stadium. It should go without saying that I hope there are no airplane flyovers imploring that people be fired, no fan “blackouts” at the game. The voice of the understandably angry Chiefs fan has been heard, and it has been noted.

Sunday will be about beginning the healing process and honoring those left behind from this senseless crime. Be a Chiefs fan Sunday. At the core, that’s what you are.

I know some people don’t understand why or how the game can be played. But the Chiefs’ coaches and team captains reportedly played a major role in the decision to go ahead with it. If the Chiefs want to play, I think we all can support that choice.

I’ve been asked a lot Saturday about what Belcher was like. I didn’t know him. I never met him or interviewed him. I knew he was an overachieving player who ended up starting 44 career games after going undrafted.

I know his agent, Joe Linta, very well. He has a well-deserved reputation for representing solid-citizen types. He had always spoken highly of Belcher to me. Linta expressed disbelief Saturday.

Disbelief. That’s all you can feel when something so unspeakable happens.

Video: Kansas City mayor addresses deaths

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
4:46
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Kansas City mayor Sly James addresses Jovan Belcher's suicide and the murder of Kasandra M. Perkins.

Video: Schefter on death in Kansas City

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
2:44
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Adam Schefter comments on Jovan Belcher's death at team's facility.

Video: Police spokesman on Belcher death

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
2:35
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Kansas City police spokesman Darin Snapp discusses Jovan Belcher's apparent murder-suicide.

Video: Todd Leabo on Chiefs suicide

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
2:01
PM ET

Todd Leabo shares the latest on the incident at Arrowhead Stadium.

Police confirm Belcher killed woman, self

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
1:28
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend early Saturday, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager, police said.

Police said the 25-year-old killed his girlfriend and then went to the team practice facility, where he shot himself. Police did not identify the victim.

Members of the Chiefs organization told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that some players noticed Belcher was troubled in his car, and went in the facility and told someone, before coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli called police and went outside to talk to him. Belcher then killed himself in front of them.

Before turning the gun on himself, the Belcher thanked Pioli and Crennel for all they had done for him, police spokesman Darin Snapp said.

Click here for the rest of this story.

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