Chiefs Chair & CEO Clark Hunt said that he had “several discussions with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell regarding postponing” yesterday’s game against the Panthers after LB Jovan Belcher "killed his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins and then shot himself at the club's practice facility" on Saturday, according to Randy Covitz of the K.C. STAR. But Hunt said he “decided to leave it up to” coach Romeo Crennel and the team whether to play. Hunt said, “Romeo had been through a very traumatic event in the morning, and I felt it was up to the players. I asked Romeo to call the captains and ask the captains whether they thought we should go forward with the game. He did that, and, of course, the captains had been in conversation with their teammates. They unanimously believed the right thing to do was to play the game, and that’s how the decision was made.” Crennel, assistant coach Gary Gibbs and GM Scott Pioli all witnessed Belcher’s suicide, and Hunt said, “As an organization we want to make sure we stay focused on them. They went in the mode of ‘Hey, we have to play a game tomorrow’ but I also know they have a lot of pain on the inside, and we need to be attentive of them and make sure it’s being addressed.” Covitz notes after Hunt arrived in K.C. Saturday, he “went to the downtown hotel where the Chiefs stay on the night before home games.” Hunt: “I wanted to be there with the team, with the coaches to let them know that I love them and support them, and I know what they’re going through, and particularly for the guys who were present in the parking lot when Jovan took his life. I know this has to be incredibly difficult” (K.C. STAR, 12/3). He added, “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” (USA TODAY, 12/3). Hunt stressed there were "two victims" in the tragedy. He said, "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” (ESPN.com, 12/2).
A FINE LINE: Hunt said that the Chiefs “declined to honor Belcher with a decal or patch of his initials or uniform No. 59 on the Chiefs uniform.” In K.C., Blair Kerkhoff noted the team “instead observed a moment of silence before the game" in which Belcher "wasn't mentioned." Hunt said of the decision, “It was a tough line to walk considering the circumstances.” Players “remembered their teammate, Perkins and their daughter.” Some “wore T-shirts that included a photo of Belcher and ‘Rest in Peace’” (K.C. STAR, 12/3). ESPN.com’s Jeffri Chadiha wrote the Chiefs “had to walk the fine line between missing a friend and adoring a murderer” (ESPN.com, 12/2). NFL Network’s Randy Moss noted before the game fans were “joining in” the sensitivity that Belcher "took another life other than his own.” Moss said, “In recent games at Arrowhead, there’s been a plane that’s towed a banner overhead urging the Chiefs to fire Scott Pioli and bench Matt Cassel. A banner paid for in fact by irate Chiefs fans. I’ve been told that that plane will not be in the air today over Arrowhead. It’s a very different and much more subdued game day here at Arrowhead Stadium” (“NFL Gameday Morning,” NFL Network, 12/2). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen reported by mid-afternoon Saturday, Belcher’s name "already had been removed from the roster on the team’s website” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/2). ABC’s John Schriffen noted the Chiefs “will start a foundation for Belcher’s three-month-old daughter left behind” (“World News,” ABC, 12/2).
TEAM UNITED: In K.C., Tod Palmer reports while the "court of public opinion was split down the middle, the Chiefs ... were united in the desire to play as scheduled.” Chiefs C Ryan Lilja said, “The least-worst option was to play the game. Suffering a tragedy like that, maybe the best thing was to be together and do what we do -- and that’s what we do, we play football.” Chiefs OT Eric Winston said, “I definitely didn’t want it postponed. What are you going to do, move it to Monday and kind of keep the agony going?” (K.C. STAR, 12/3). USA TODAY's Saraceno, Garafolo & Bell cited sources with knowledge of the decision to play the game as scheduled as saying that “there were no dissenting voices.” Hunt “discussed the issue” with Goodell and NFL Exec VP/Labor & General Counsel Jeff Pash, and Goodell “in turn talked with” NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith. After “meeting with his entire team at Arrowhead Stadium, Crennel met with the six team captains" -- Lilja, QB Matt Cassel, LB Derrick Johnson, S Eric Berry, WR Terrance Copper and P Dustin Colquitt. The captains “agreed that the game should be played” (USATODAY.com, 12/2). Cassel said Crennel “asked me whether or not I felt like we should play. I told him it was a healthy distraction for me to be able to get back with my teammates and family and get away from the chaos. You sit around and try to find reasons why, and there's never an easy answer” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/3). ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said, “It really was up to the Chiefs players and organization to make this decision. There were several conversations between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and the Chiefs organization and ultimately … they decided to play the game and all sides are ok with it” (“Sunday NFL Countdown,” ESPN, 12/2). CBS’ Jason La Canfora said, “This really was a case where the league took its cues from the Chiefs organization” (“The NFL Today,” CBS, 12/2).
TOO SOON TO PLAY? USA TODAY’s Jarrett Bell wrote, “Something seems too weird about having a game so close in timing, location and emotions to the tragedy.” Bell wrote of postponing the game, “Not that you'd expect this from the all-powerful, so-popular NFL. It's big business. Moving the game on short notice to, say, Monday night, would have wreaked havoc on work schedules of thousands, ruined tailgate parties and clipped into revenue streams.” Bell: “So what” (USATODAY.com, 12/2). YAHOO SPORTS’ Michael Silver wrote, “I'm appalled that the team and league are sticking to the script, and I question the logic behind the decision. Pardon my skepticism, and that of one Chiefs player who predicted this in the wake of the tragedy: ‘It's all about money,’ he said.” The NFL “should have postponed the game until at least Monday, or canceled it” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/1). ESPN's Cris Carter said, “At some point something has to happen where life is bigger than football. I don’t think they should play today because I don’t think the guys emotionally know what they're dealing with" ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 12/2). FOXSPORTS.com’s Jason Whitlock on Saturday night wrote, “There’s just no way this game should be played.” Whitlock: “I just don’t get it. And I’m not trying to vilify the Chiefs for choosing to play Sunday’s game. It shouldn’t be their decision. Roger Goodell should’ve made this call. Crennel, Pioli and Kansas City players are justifiably still in a state of shock” (FOXSPORTS.com, 12/1). In Oakland, Monte Poole before the game wrote, “I hope the NFL finds a shred of compassion within what passes for its collective soul. … Maybe there will be a last-minute change. I doubt it. The past speaks volumes. The NFL is never more awkward -- or more wrong -- than when it clearly perceives people as disposable and their lives as little more than a means to its wealth” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 12/2).
TOUGH CHOICE: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes, “I think the league should have postponed the game until a later date. Then again, I'm not a Kansas City player, and I didn't lose anyone close to me Saturday” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/3). The AP’s Tim Dahlberg wrote on Saturday, “As painful as Sunday will be, the NFL got it right” (AP, 12/1). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote playing the game as scheduled “feels somewhat mercenary, although I’m OK with it." Fowler: "I don’t think postponing the game a few days would make things any better” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/2).
ROMEO'S MOMENT: In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes Crennel’s “finest hour of the season came from the darkest moment of his life.” Watching Crennel on the sideline “you might not have known Romeo was coaching 28 hours after eye-witnessing tragedy.” But Crennel “saw football as therapy, teammates as brothers who needed each other now more than ever. That even spirit never defined him so completely. His focus on his players as men never served him so well” (K.C. STAR, 12/3).