KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt offered his condolences Sunday to the families affected by the murder-suicide involving one of his players, calling it "an incredibly difficult 24 hours for our family and for our organization."
Hunt spoke to The Associated Press on the field before the Chiefs' game against the Carolina Panthers. He said the Chiefs consulted with the league about whether to play the game as scheduled, but ultimately left it up to coach Romeo Crennel and the team captains to decide.
The game was played in a half-empty stadium before a sparse crowd that could only muster some subdued cheering most of the afternoon given the tragedy that had occurred.
Chiefs players gathered in the tunnel leading to the field for a brief prayer before their pregame stretching. A few fans held up signs referencing the shootings, and there was a moment of silence prior to the national anthem to remember all victims of domestic violence.
After running back Peyton Hillis scored a touchdown on the opening possession, he ran to the sideline and gave the ball to Crennel along with a hug. The Chiefs went on to beat the Panthers 27-21.
Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs were in the parking lot of the Chiefs' practice facility Saturday morning when linebacker Jovan Belcher shot himself in the head. Belcher had shot his girlfriend multiple times at a nearby residence minutes earlier.
Hunt said Pioli called him from the parking lot immediately after the shooting, and that he flew from his home in the Dallas to Kansas City on Saturday afternoon.
"I spent the evening last night at the team hotel with them," Hunt said. "I wanted to be there with the team, with the coaches, to let them know I love them and support them and know what they're going through, and particularly the guys who were present in the parking lot when Jovan took his life. I know this has to be incredibly difficult."
The Chiefs had several counselors on hand at the team hotel Saturday night. The NFL and the players' association have also pledged their support to the team.
Hunt said that Belcher was "a player who had not had a long concussion history."
Belcher was in his fourth year with the Chiefs after making the team as an undrafted free agent out of Maine, and team officials said he was particularly close to Pioli.
"We have a lot of players who were struggling, people who had spent countless hours with Jovan over the last several years, the linebacking group in particular," Hunt said. "I know it's going to be difficult for them today. I told them all we can do in a situation like this is pull together as a family and support each other."
Kansas City police have not released a motive for the shooting of 22-year-old Kasandra M. Perkins, other than to say the couple had been arguing in recent days. They left behind a 3-month-old daughter, Zoey, who was being cared for by family.
The Chiefs intend to help start a foundation to help the infant later in the life.
"We lost two members of the Chiefs family," Hunt said. "Kasandra was part of our Chiefs women's organization, and had done things in the community with the CWO group. They have a daughter now, Zoe, who is an orphan. I can't imagine how difficult that's going to be for her."
Hunt said that he had a number of conversations Saturday with Commissioner Roger Goodell on whether to play the game against Carolina as scheduled. Ultimately, Hunt asked Crennel to discuss with team captains how they wanted to proceed.
"Of course, the captains had been in conversation with their teammates," Hunt said, "and they unanimously believed the right thing to do was play the game."
The Chiefs family has dealt before with murder-suicide. Retired tackle Jim Tyrer, a mainstay on the Super Bowl champion team of 1969, was reportedly despondent over not finding a job when he shot his wife and himself in their Kansas City home on the morning of Sept. 15, 1980.
There have been other tragedies that have struck close to home.
Mack Lee Hill, an undrafted fullback who went on to star for the Chiefs in 1965, died of complications following surgery on an injured right knee. The Chiefs later inaugurated the Mack Lee Hill Award given every year to the outstanding rookie.
On Feb. 8, 1990, eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Thomas died of a massive blood clot two weeks after he was paralyzed in a traffic accident. He had been thrown onto the pavement when the vehicle he was driving flipped on a slick, snow-covered highway.
On June 29, 1883, popular running back Joe Delaney drowned in his native Louisiana while saving three children from drowning. He had rushed for 1,121 yards his rookie year in 1981, and set four team records, helping the Chiefs post their first winning record since 1973.
"I've spent a fair amount of time reflecting on the other losses the organization has suffered, and no two of them were the same," Hunt said. "Every situation is different, but it's still a loss, a tremendous loss."