Play­ers face ques­tions af­ter mur­der-sui­cide

Team­mates won­der if they could have done more to help trou­bled Belcher.

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - QB Brady Quinn sug­gested more real lis­ten­ing to oth­ers.

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.”

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