Jovan Belcher walked off the field after his final practice, laughing and joking with Chiefs defensive tackle Shaun Smith about who would get into the game the most on Sunday afternoon.
The two walked down the half-dozen steps and into the training complex, past the inspirational signs that coach Romeo Crennel regularly posts on the wall, and through locker-room doors.
Never could anybody imagine it would be Belcher’s last time.
“We was joking, having fun,” Smith recalled quietly. “I’m going to miss him.”
Friends and family of Belcher and his slain girl-friend, Kasandra Perkins, tried to come to grips Monday with the horrible events of the weekend. As they did, a portrait of the 25-year-old player began to emerge, that of a man devoted to his family, who cherished his daughter and loved football after making it to the NFL against long odds. Still, the question remained: What would drive him to gun down the mother of his baby girl and then take his own life?
“I didn’t see anything at all,” said his close friend and fellow Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, who couldn’t bring himself to refer to Belcher in the past tense.
“Jovan is the definition of a teammate. He’s going to give 100 percent every time,” Johnson said. “He and I have grown really close since he’s been on the team, and this is devastating.”
Investigators were still searching for a motive behind Saturday’s shootings.
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, 1983, 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.
Kaepernick still 49ers quarterback for now
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is sticking with Colin Kaepernick as his starter under center – for now, anyway – as his team prepares for Sunday’s home game with the Miami Dolphins. And, no, Alex Smith isn’t out of this mix yet, either.
A day after a 16-13 overtime loss at St. Louis, Harbaugh accepted the blame for the fourth-quarter pitch that was fumbled by Kaepernick and led to the Rams tying the game. Harbaugh didn’t call the play, but relayed it through the headset to Kaepernick. Harbaugh says he saw positives in the way Kaepernick responded after making mistakes.
Around the league
Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid says rookie Nick Foles will be the starting quarterback even when Michael Vick returns from a concussion. Reid made the announcement after Foles had his best performance in a 38-33 loss at Dallas on Sunday night. Foles, a third-round pick, has started the last three games since Vick was injured on Nov. 11. … Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen left the team after Sunday’s 20-17 loss to Cleveland to be with his father, who has a serious medical issue. Allen is expected to rejoin the team on Wednesday night and be on the field Thursday when the Raiders (3-9) host the Denver Broncos (9-3).