'Hurting' Chiefs end skid after teammate's suicide
KANSAS CITY - Agence France-Presse
Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers players form a prayer circle after the Chiefs' win in a NFL football game in Kansas City, Missouri December 2, 2012. The previous day, Chiefs' linebacker Jovan Belcher killed himself after fatally shooting his girlfriend in an action witnessed by head coach Romeo Crennel and other Chiefs personnel. REUTERS photoA somber Kansas City Chiefs NFL team took inspiration from tragedy to end an eight-game losing streak Sunday, a day after a player committed suicide after killing his girlfriend.
The Chiefs beat the Carolina Panthers 27-21, in the wake of an incident in which police said Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed the 22-year old mother of his infant daughter.
He then drove to the team's Arrowhead Stadium and turned a gun on himself, fatally pulling the trigger in front of head coach Romeo Crennel and other staff.
The murder-suicide was part of a traumatic weekend in the NFL, with the Cleveland Browns confirming that groundskeeper Eric Eudker had been found dead on Saturday -- reportedly after hanging himself in a team maintenance shed.
Belcher's actions left the league reeling ahead of Sunday's contest for an already struggling Chiefs team, which had won just one other game this season.
But Crennel was on the sideline, and said he had no hesitation in going ahead with the game.
"As far as playing the game, I thought that was the best for us to do, because that's what we do," he said. "That's what we do, we play on Sunday." Crennel's emotional address to his team after the victory was broadcast on television.
"You overcame a lot, you stuck together as a team like we talked about -- helped each other -- family and friends, you relied on those people or you relied on your faith to help get you through this," he told his players.
"And we got through it -- in a grand way because everyone made a contribution, everybody helped. And that's what a team is about." Chiefs chief executive Clark Hunt said before the game that the previous 24 hours had been "incredibly difficult".
"We have so many guys on the team and on the coaching staff who are really hurting." Hunt said he left the decision on whether to play up to players and Crennel, who was among the Chiefs staff watching when Belcher, 25, turned up at the team's training facility after shooting his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins.
As police descended on Arrowhead Stadium in response to an emergency call, Belcher shot himself, Kansas City police spokesman Darin Snapp said.
Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and another Chiefs staff member had gone outside to talk to the player.
"Belcher thanked them for being a Chief, and that's when he walked away," Snapp said. When he was 30 or 40 feet (nine to 12 meters) away, Belcher killed himself with one gunshot to his head.
Police said the couple's daughter was in the care of Belcher's mother, who was visiting from out of town and called authorities after witnessing the first shooting at a house near the stadium.
The Chiefs opted not to memorialize Belcher specifically on Sunday, but held a moment of silence before the game in recognition of victims of domestic violence.
Police said Belcher and Perkins argued before he shot her, but the violence stunned those who knew the player.
"Something went crazy wrong, and we'll probably never know what it is," Belcher's agent Joe Linta was quoted as saying on SI.com.