Players face questions after murder-suicide
Teammates wonder if they could have done more to help troubled Belcher.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Brady Quinn can’t help but wonder whether he missed something in the final days of Jovan Belcher’s life.
Could the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback have listened better to his teammate? Could he have noticed a change in the linebacker’s temperament? Did Belcher utter something under his breath that may have let on that he was capable of killing his girlfriend and himself?
“When you ask someone how they’re doing, do you really mean it?” Quinn wondered. “When you answer, are you telling the truth?”
The murder-suicide last Saturday raised similar questions among players and coaches across the NFL. In an era in which physical safety is of paramount importance, it’s become clear that ensuring the emotional well-being of the men who play the game is just as essential.
“The relationships you have with people face-toface, on a daily basis, kind of get brushed aside for everything else that’s out there,” Quinn said. “A lot of times people hide their issues, their problems. They don’t talk to anyone until it’s too late.”
This past July, the NFL established an emergency hotline that operates 24 hours a day and connects players, staff and family members in crisis with mental-health professionals who are not affiliated with the league or its teams. The group, which provides a similar service to the Veteran’s Administration, is required to keep its conversations confidential unless the individual calling indicates they may harm themselves or others.
Robert Gulliver, the NFL’s chief human resources officer, said “absolutely, players and staff are taking advantage of the opportunity” provided by the hotline.
Gulliver couldn’t say whether Belcher had called, citing its confidentiality policy, and could not provide any data that indicates how much it is being used. But Gulliver did say that what happened to Belcher may cause the NFL to consider more offerings in the future.
Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, who was close to Belcher, found himself asking in the days after the shootings whether there was something he could have done.
Ultimately, Johnson said, the shootings may serve as a wake-up call to people to put down their cell phones and start having real conversations.
“We need to talk to each other more as men, not as football players,” he said. “Generally men don’t talk about their feelings. They don’t show emotion. As a teammate, we have to do more.”