Browns: Chiefs try to carry on despite emotional toll
Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, right, greets quarterback Brady Quinn after a win over Carolina last week.
CLEVELAND — Their emotions remain raw after a week in which their schedule included a memorial service. The Kansas City Chiefs are recovering from a tragedy that has altered an already difficult season, changed lives and provoked questions that may never be answered.
As difficult as it may be, they must play again — this time on the road against the Cleveland Browns. This just eight days after linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then drove to the team’s practice facility and committed suicide.
For Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, who had pleaded with Belcher to put down his gun, the pain and sorrow will always be there. Crennel, though, said he must lead his grieving team.
“You can’t go away from it. I’ll never be able to go away from it,” he said. “But in the business that we’re in, we have to try to move on and we have to try to focus on our job. And that’s the way life is.”
Last week, the Chiefs somehow managed to pull together and beat Carolina 27-21 and end an eight-game losing streak just hours after Belcher’s death. It was an inspiring effort, commanded by Crennel, the well-respected former Browns coach who drew upon his upbringing as the son of a career military man and a patient mother.
Since the win, the Chiefs have tried to get back to their routine, but it has been difficult. On Wednesday, their practice schedule was adjusted so they could attend a service for Belcher.
Crennel knows the past week’s events have taken their toll, and it’s possible that by today, the players could be completely spent.
“We have to be cognizant of that,” he said. “Just like last week I was cognizant of the fact that I didn’t know how we were going to handle it mentally. Like I told them, ‘You are prepared to play a football game. You worked during the week, you’ve installed the game plan and you’ve practiced and you are prepared to play in the game. But mentally is the question: Can we put our tragedy aside for the few hours that we have to play, and then still play?
“To their credit and to their character, they were able to put the misery aside, play a good football game and come out victorious.”
The game will be a homecoming of sorts for Crennel, quarterback Brady Quinn, running back Peyton Hillis and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, all of whom had stints with the Browns.
At one point, Quinn was thought to be Cleveland’s franchise quarterback. He was drafted by the Browns in the first round in 2007 and had some solid games before being traded in 2010 to Denver — oddly enough, for Hillis.
Now, Quinn is returning to play his former team following the best game of his career, for which he was named the AFC offensive player of the week. There couldn’t have been much tougher circumstances for a quarterback but Quinn delivered, putting aside his feelings and showing remarkable leadership.
He said it might be difficult for the Chiefs to play as well as they did last week. Time has passed, but not yet enough to make a difference.
“Everyone understands what their job is on a day-to-day basis,” Quinn said. “It’s a solid locker room of guys who love to play and are dedicated to their sport. There are definitely some people who are still hurting inside. They may not be showing it, but you can tell.”