Members of the Kansas City Chiefs dressed in suits and ties after practice today and boarded a series of buses to attend a memorial service for Jovan Belcher, their teammate who was involved in a murder-suicide over the weekend.
The team moved up its practice schedule so that players could attend the service at Landmark International Deliverance and Worship Center, a short drive from the team's practice facility.
The memorial service was not open to the public.
Belcher shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, at their home Saturday morning before driving to Arrowhead Stadium and turning the gun on himself. Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and defensive assistant Gary Gibbs witnessed Belcher commit suicide not far from where the buses were staged.
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 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 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."
Belcher's locker remained full of his equipment and personal belongings today as players quickly showered and dressed in suits. Some of them said they avoided looking at it intentionally, while others had no problem with the locker remaining as it was as a memorial to their teammate.
Defensive back Travis Daniels said he understood the complexity in memorializing a man who committed murder and remembering someone the team knew and loved.
"Any time you look at a situation, there's going to be multiple views, how someone feels you should go about it," he said. "Just like when we're on the field, some people think we should have made this tackle or that catch, and other people might think it was too hard. I don't have a problems seeing Javon's locker over there."
Daniels said that today's memorial service could "reopen wounds," but he also said it might provide some closure. He said it was important for the team to support the families of everyone involved - the murder-suicide left a three-month-old girl, Zoey, any without any parents.
"We're definitely thankful we have the opportunity to see them one last time before they go home and everything," Daniels said. "We definitely want to go and pay respects to him and his family."
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