BEREA: RAC might be their rock.
But the most poignant comments in the wake of last weekend’s Kansas City Chiefs tragedy came not from their 65-year-old coach Romeo Crennel, the former Browns coach, but from quarterback Brady Quinn.
It was Quinn, the Browns’ first-round pick in 2007 who is playing for his third NFL team, that gave the world something deeper to think about than just the horror of what happened on Saturday. Linebacker Jovan Belcher killed girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, the mother of their 3-month old daughter Zoey, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of Crennel, General Manager Scott Pioli and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs.
“The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people,” Quinn told reporters after leading the Chiefs to a 27-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers Sunday. “I know when it happened, I was thinking what I could have done differently. When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer, are you really telling the truth?
“We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine. But we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships we have right in front of us. Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.”
Quinn, 28, isn’t sure what prompted his revelation. He’s never been shy about professing his faith. He heard about teen suicide rates when working with Christian youth groups during his two years in Denver. He said when he grew up in Dublin, Ohio, he didn’t even have a cell phone in junior high.
“Now it’s like every kid’s got a cell phone and every kid’s on the Internet,” Quinn said Wednesday during a conference call with Browns media. “A lot of times people hide their issues, their problems, they don’t talk to anyone until it’s too late.”
Quinn didn’t know if the events of the past few days have been life-changing.
“We’re still kind of in the midst of the storm right now,” Quinn said. “Emotions are still pretty raw. You’ve got to try to be able to climb to a higher point to get a better vantage point and I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that until we have some more time away from the situation.”
The Chiefs pushed up practice Wednesday so they could attend a memorial service for Belcher. In the locker room, Belcher’s stall is filled with his equipment and personal belongings. Perkins’ funeral is Thursday in her home state of Texas. Grief counselors will remain at team headquarters through this week. Crennel said running back Jamaal Charles was doubly stricken because his wife Whitney is Perkins’ first cousin.
As the Chiefs (2-10) prepare for their game in Cleveland on Sunday against the Browns (4-8), there is still much to deal with as they try to find peace. In their time of crisis, the ex-Browns on the roster and the coaching staff seem to be leading them through the darkness.
At the forefront are Crennel, Quinn, whom Crennel called “somewhat of a born leader,” and running back Peyton Hillis, who spoke to the team before the game against the Panthers. According to NFL.com, Hillis quoted a Bible verse, Ephesians 6:10-20, that he had written on a T-shirt he wore underneath his pads, and talked about how the deaths had brought him closer to his faith and made him think more about his purpose in life. He urged the Chiefs to consider themselves a family.
Quinn said he believes the ex-Browns have stepped up because of what they went through in Cleveland.
“We had a couple rough seasons, we had a solid season where we didn’t make the playoffs. There was more adversity and trials than anything else,” Quinn said. “I think a lot of times when guys come from those sorts of scenarios, they can either use those moments to help them learn lessons and try to provide guidance to others, especially in the midst of these sorts of adversities. That’s maybe what you’ve seen.”
According to Quinn, their “steady force” has been Crennel, whom he hasn’t seen waver since Saturday, when “a lot of people were emotional and rightfully so.”
That’s not to say that Crennel isn’t hurting.
“It’s been overwhelming, but I try to compartmentalize,” Crennel said during a conference call. “I have moments here and there. You get past your moment and then do what you have to do to keep things going. You can’t go away from it. I’ll never be able to go away from it.”
But after trying to reason with Belcher, 25, and convince him to give up his gun, only to see him walk away and shoot himself, Crennel has not wondered what he could have done differently.
“No, not really, because I tried to do everything I could,” Crennel said. “I feel comfortable with what I tried to do and it just wasn’t enough.”
Browns kicker Phil Dawson, who played for Crennel when he directed the Browns from 2005-08 and was the defensive coordinator in 2000, isn’t the least bit surprised at Crennel’s strength in a crisis.
“I can’t think of a better guy to manage a team through a horrible situation like that than Romeo,” Dawson said. “He’s a good man. Doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low. He thinks through things very well, doesn’t react very much. They’re fortunate to have him.”
Quinn agreed with the suggestion that perhaps Crennel was meant to be in Kansas City now.
“There’s a lot of times when you look at situations like this and then you see why maybe God puts people in certain places,” Quinn said.
That might be the case for more than Crennel. Strengthened by their scars from Cleveland, Quinn and Hillis are also trying to help bind the grieving Chiefs’ wounds.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.