BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Sunday’s game at Cleveland Browns Stadium will be a homecoming for several Kansas City Chiefs.
But for several former Browns, they return to town bearing heavy hearts as they lead their current team through the tragic murder-suicide involving linebacker Jovan Belcher on Dec. 1.
“We lost a friend, a teammate, a family member to us,” quarterback Brady Quinn said via conference call Wednesday. “There was a tragedy that takes place where a mother is gone now and there’s a little girl who’s without two parents. When you in some way try to put it in perspective, it’s hard to really get a grasp of the gravity of the situation.”
A day later, Quinn and the Chiefs rallied to end an 8-game losing streak with a 27-21 win over Carolina.
Head coach Romeo Crennel along with general manager Scott Pioli saw Belcher, who had killed his girlfriend and mother of their 3-month-old daughter Kassandra Perkins, take his own life in front of the team’s practice facility.
It’s a horrifying vision that will live with Crennel for the rest of his life.
“You can’t go away from it,” Crennel said. “I’ll never be able to go away from it. 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 at hand. And that’s the way life is also. Because these situations occur in life probably more than they should and more than we want em too and other people have to deal with em and move forward and so you have to do that. And these young men, they need a strong leader to help them do that. And so that’s what my job is and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Crennel is now trying to compartmentalize his own emotions and get his team ready to travel to Cleveland as he, members of his staff, and several players will try to beat their former team – the Browns.
“It’s a tough situation to have to work through and go through, but we’re trying to work through it and move forward as best we can,” Crennel said. “And the players, they’ve been really good about leaning on each other and trying to help each other and the coaching staff the same way. And all of those guys have done a nice job getting us through this. And then we’re going to get through it and then concentrate on football as best we can.”
Quinn credited Crennel, who was accused of losing the Browns’ locker room during his final season – a 4-12 campaign, for bringing the Chiefs together this past week.
“He was kind of that steady rock,” Quinn said. “In the midst of everything, he obviously witnessed it so he knew he had to put it on himself to not only communicate what happened, but at the same time, lead us because there was going to be so much emotion involved — a lot of guys searching, seeing how they should respond. He was obviously emotional, and rightfully so. After that, he was able to be that steady force on this team.”
Crennel spent 4 years as head coach of the Browns and led them to their winningest season since returning – 10-6 in 2007. Unfortunately Crennel won just 14 games in the other 3 years.
Quinn was named the AFC player of week after completing 19 of 23 passes for 201 yards, 2 touchdowns in the Chiefs emotional win over the Panthers.
“Well, Brady has been very level-headed all along, ever since I had him there in Cleveland,” Crennel said. “He handles himself very well and as a quarterback, he is somewhat a born leader, because you have to be a leader to be a quarterback. And he displayed that leadership last weekend and during the week and I think he’ll display that leadership Sunday.”
Quinn was drafted by the Browns in 2007 before being traded to Denver in 2010. He signed with the Chiefs in March.
“Things never go the way you expect them to in life,” Quinn said. “My mind’s not really on my career. If I’ve learned anything in my career, it’s that you really can’t take things past one day at a time. This league, it’s such a roller coaster ride no matter who you are that you’ve just got to continue to try to get better every day and focus on the task at hand. That’s got to be where your focus is.”
Quinn’s career has been a roller coaster but he tries not to think about what could’ve been or if he got a fair shot with the Browns.
“That’s not for me to decide because again really in the end, it doesn’t matter,” Quinn said. “You wish you would have a little more stability when you’re in a situation regardless of what you’re in. I think when you, I look back on the team now and there’s maybe only 6 guys, 7 guys that I was with 3 years ago on that team.
“It’s just a tough scenario when you’ve got so many moving parts and everything’s constantly changing when you can’t get some stability.”
Back up running back Peyton Hillis spent 2 seasons with the Browns before signing with Kansas City following a turbulent 2011 campaign in Cleveland.
Like Crennel, both Quinn and Hillis are both are trying to use their own personal and professional adversities to help their current teammates deal with the tragedy.
“There was more adversity and trials [in Cleveland] 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 is some guys who have been through some things before who are trying to lead others who are maybe searching in these moments.”