Clark Hunt offers condolences
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt offered sympathy Sunday to the families affected by the murder-suicide involving one of his players, calling it "an incredibly difficult 24 hours for our family."
Hunt spoke to ESPN and The Associated Press on the field before the Chiefs' game against the Carolina Panthers. He said the Chiefs consulted with the league about whether to play the game as scheduled, but ultimately left it up to coach Romeo Crennel and the team captains to decide.
Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli were in the parking lot of the Chiefs' practice facility Saturday morning when linebacker Jovan Belcher shot himself in the head. Belcher had shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, multiple times at a nearby residence just minutes earlier.
"I spent the evening last night at the team hotel with them," Hunt said. "I wanted to be there with the team, with the coaches, to let them know I love them and support them and know what they're going through, and particularly the guys who were present in the parking lot when Jovan took his life. I know this has to be incredibly difficult."
Hunt said Pioli called him from the parking lot immediately after the shooting, and said that Sunday's game would be "incredibly difficult for them."
Perkins, 22, was cousins with the wife of Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles. Belcher, 25, was introduced to Perkins by Charles' wife, Whitney.
Belcher and Perkins left behind a 3-month-old daughter, Zoey, who was being cared for by family. The Chiefs intend to help start a foundation to help the infant later in the life.
"We lost two members of the Chiefs family," Hunt said. "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, Zoe, who is an orphan. I can't imagine how difficult that's going to be for her."
The Chiefs decided against publicly memorializing Belcher before the game against the Panthers. Instead, the Chiefs held a moment of silence in honor of domestic violence victims.
After running back Peyton Hillis scored a touchdown on the opening possession, he ran to the sideline and gave the ball to Crennel along with a hug.
The Chiefs had several counselors on hand at the team hotel Saturday night. The NFL and the players' association have also pledged their support to the team. Hunt said that Belcher was "a player who had not had a long concussion history."
From Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr was Belcher's teammate for three seasons in Kansas City before joining Dallas.
"I knew him and Kasandra," Carr said Sunday. "That was my family. Kansas City was my family before I got here. I'm still close with a lot of those guys there. The whole situation is just shocking. It's unexpected, out of the blue. You automatically want to ask why, but all I've been doing is praying and asking God to be there for the families that are affected by this."
Belcher was in his fourth year with the Chiefs after making the team as an undrafted free agent out of Maine, and team officials said he was particularly close to Pioli.
"We have a lot of players who were struggling, people who had spent countless hours with Jovan over the last several years, the linebacking group in particular," Hunt said. "I know it's going to be difficult for them today. I told them all we can do in a situation like this is pull together as a family and support each other."
Kansas City police have not released a motive for the shooting of Perkins, other than to say the couple had been arguing in recent days.
A source in the Kansas City police department told ESPN that Belcher arrived at the team's practice facility at approximately the same time as Pioli, who saw that the linebacker had a gun and called Chiefs security. The source also told ESPN that Belcher's shooting of Perkins "was not an accident."
Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn told the Kansas City Star that he and his teammates were "shocked" when Crennel informed them of the tragedy.
"It's hard mostly because I keep thinking about what I could have done to stop this," Quinn told the newspaper. "I think everyone is wondering whether we would have done something to prevent this from happening.
"And then we're all thinking about his daughter, three or four months old and without a parent. It's hard to not allow the emotions of the situation to creep into your head with the game this close. But we're going to do the best we can to concentrate on the task at hand."
The Chiefs family has dealt before with murder-suicide. Retired tackle Jim Tyrer, a mainstay on the Super Bowl champion team of 1969, was reportedly despondent over not finding a job when he shot his wife and himself in their Kansas City home on the morning of Sept. 15, 1980.
There have been other tragedies that have struck close to home.
Mack Lee Hill, an undrafted fullback who went on to star for the Chiefs in 1965, died of complications following surgery on an injured right knee. The Chiefs later inaugurated the Mack Lee Hill Award given every year to the outstanding rookie.
On Feb. 8, 2000, eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Thomas died of a massive blood clot two weeks after he was paralyzed in a traffic accident. He had been thrown onto the pavement when the vehicle he was driving flipped on a slick, snow-covered highway.
On June 29, 1983, popular running back Joe Delaney drowned in his native Louisiana while saving three children from drowning. He had rushed for 1,121 yards his rookie year in 1981, and set four team records, helping the Chiefs post their first winning record since 1973.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPNDallas.com was used in this report.