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Kansas City Chiefs attend Jovan Belcher memorial service

  • By Associated Press
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With their heads bowed, somber past and present Kansas City Chiefs players turned out Wednesday for a memorial service for teammate Jovan Belcher, who killed his girlfriend and then himself over the weekend.

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Belcher fatally shot 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins on Saturday at the Kansas City home they shared with their 3-month-old daughter, Zoey. He then drove to the Chiefs' practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium, where coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and defensive assistant Gary Gibbs witnessed Belcher commit suicide.

The team moved up its practice schedule Wednesday so that players could attend the afternoon service at nearby Landmark International Deliverance and Worship Center, where Belcher and Perkins worshipped. The media wasn't allowed inside.

Afterward, a coffin was wheeled from the building and driven away in a hearse.

Retired Chiefs Hall of Famer Bobby Bell said Pioli and an uncle of Belcher's spoke during the service.

"It's done and over with, and people need to get on with their lives, and the team needed to try to get forward," Bell said. "It's tough on them. When you see somebody and play with them, you're buddies, friends."

Many of the players boarded coach buses after the service, but a few walked to their own vehicles with their wives and girlfriends.

"It was good," running back Peyton Hillis said of the service. He wouldn't comment further.

Defensive end Ropati Pitoitua, kicker Ryan Succop and linebacker Derrick Johnson said they didn't want to be interviewed.

Before the service, veteran offensive lineman Ryan Lilja said he hoped the memorial would provide some closure for the Chiefs, who will try to win their second consecutive game Sunday 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 has been a change in the atmosphere around the team building.

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Jovan Belcher through the years

Take a look at photos of Jovan Belcher through the years.

"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 Chiefs locker remained full of his equipment and personal belongings Wednesday as players quickly showered and dressed in suits for the service. Some said they avoided looking at the linebacker's locker, while others were fine with seeing their teammate's things as he left them.

"I don't have a problem seeing Javon's locker over there," defensive back Travis Daniels said.

Daniels said it was important for the team to support the families of everyone involved.

"We're definitely thankful we have the opportunity to see them one last time before they go home and everything," Daniels said ahead of the service, referring to relatives who traveled from out of town to attend. "We definitely want to go and pay respects to him and his family."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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