With heavy hearts, Chiefs shift focus to next game

The Chiefs returned to work on Monday, but much like the day before, they didn’t have the energy to celebrate their accomplishment.

They won their first game in more than two months Sunday, against the Carolina Panthers, but that achievement was lost in the shadow of the tragedy involving former teammate Jovan Belcher, who killed girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, 22, on Saturday before taking his own life.

“From a football standpoint, we played a good game and I think we’re happy with the way our team stuck together through immense adversity,” linebacker Andy Studebaker said. “But when you zoom out 200 feet or a thousand feet, it’s really insignificant what we accomplished compared to what happened to those families, to Kassie and Jovan’s mom and Kassie’s family and their little baby, Zoey.

“It wasn’t like a normal Sunday. I don’t want to say we didn’t enjoy the win. We did. But when you think about it, there are bigger things going on that need to be addressed.”

The Chiefs are going to be addressing the ramifications of the murder-suicide for some time. They are still dealing with issues that have nothing to do with football, and probably will be for the rest of the season, if not longer.

Still, coach Romeo Crennel tried to drag the Chiefs back to football on Monday. They play again on Sunday against the Browns in Cleveland.

“Now, our focus has to be and needs to be on facing an improving Cleveland Brown team on the road,” Crennel said. “But we have to deal with the events of the last few days. It’s not over and it might not be over for some of us for most of our lives.”

Reminders of the weekend’s tragic events were everywhere Monday. Players parked in the lot outside the practice facility where Belcher, after murdering Perkins at their Kansas City home, shot himself in the head.

“It was hard to walk through that parking lot, but it was even harder to sit through meetings,” linebacker Brandon Siler said. “He (used to sit) right beside me, so that was hard. You keep looking at that seat thinking he was going to show up at some point in time.”

Belcher’s locker at the practice facility was, like the one at Arrowhead Stadium, still intact. The Chiefs brought in grief counselors, who arrived at the team’s downtown hotel Saturday night and will be at their practice facility most of the week.

“The players have been told they’re available, and if they want to talk to them and use them, they can,” Crennel said.

If the Chiefs find a way to beat the 4-8 Browns, perhaps they can take more pride in that accomplishment than they did in their 27-21 win over Carolina, a result that snapped an eight-game losing streak.

“It was bittersweet,” tackle Eric Winston said. “It definitely wasn’t the same feeling in the locker room. At the end of the game, those feelings and those thoughts that you were able to kind of push away for three hours kind of started to creep back in. That was probably the toughest part of it all, coming back to the locker room and facing the facts and facing that agony again.”

The Chiefs erupted in cheers in their locker room after the game Sunday, and chairman Clark Hunt presented Crennel with a game ball. But otherwise, things were subdued.

“It wasn’t a typical locker room after a win,” center Ryan Lilja said. “There are so many things bigger than football going on right now. Win or lose, a lot of guys were going to be the same way. We did what we do. We went to work and played football.

“It’s something that there is no textbook (for) on how to handle (it) or how to feel. There are a lot of emotions — confusing emotions. But we’re going to try to get back to football as best we can. That’s going to be tough.”

Said Studebaker, “The process has just begun. Different guys are going to get over this at different rates. Some are going to be hurting today more than tomorrow. Different guys may be hurting more tomorrow. We just need to lean on each other, and when it’s time to focus in on football, do the best we can.

“We do have to play Sunday. It’s going to take a team effort in more ways than one. But it’s way more than just Xs and Os at this point.”

At this point or at any point in the foreseeable future.

“Starting Wednesday, we’re going to try to start a new chapter in our book,” Winston said, “but that cloud is probably going to be with us for a while.”