KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Heads bowed, somber past and present Kansas City Chiefs players turned out Wednesday for a memorial service for teammate Jovan Belcher, who killed his girlfriend and then himself over the weekend.
Belcher fatally shot 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins on Saturday at the Kansas City home they shared with their 3-month-old daughter, Zoey. He then drove to the Chiefs practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium, where coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and defensive assistant Gary Gibbs witnessed Belcher commit suicide.
The team moved up its practice schedule so that players could attend Wednesday afternoon’s service at the nearby Landmark International Deliverance and Worship Center, where Belcher and Perkins worshipped. The media wasn’t allowed inside.
Afterward, a coffin was wheeled from the building and driven away in a hearse.
Retired Chiefs Hall of Famer Bobby Bell said Pioli and an uncle of Belcher’s spoke during the service.
“It’s done and over with and people need to get on with their lives, and the team needed to try to get forward,” Bell said. “It’s tough on them. When you see somebody and play with them you’re buddies, friends.”
Many of the players boarded coach buses after the service, but a few walked to their own vehicles with their wives and girlfriends.
“It was good,” running back Peyton Hillis said of the service. He wouldn’t comment further.
Defensive end Ropatisp Pitoitua, kicker Ryan Succop, and linebacker Derrick Johnson said they didn’t want to be interviewed.
Before the service, veteran offensive lineman Ryan Lilja said he hoped the memorial would provide some closure for the Chiefs, who will try to win their second straight game Sunday at Cleveland.
“You got to try to deal with it however you deal with it, and grieve the best way for the individual,” he said, “and I think this is the best way for us as a team to get closure and move on and focus on football.”
Lilja said some players have taken advantage of counseling services that have been provided by the Chiefs and the NFL and that there’s been a change in the atmosphere around the team building.
“There definitely is more, ‘How you doing? How you feeling? How you coping?’” Lilja said. “There’s definitely more of that, and people leaning on each other, and be an ear when they need it. Guys are going to deal with this on an individual basis.”