BEREA - Romeo Crennel will never forget what he witnessed on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 1 in a parking lot outside of Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
Thankfully, the Chiefs coach comes from a well-grounded upbringing by strong, caring parents. He's dipped into those resources a lot since watching linebacker Jovan Belcher put a gun to his head and commit suicide. Shortly before that, Belcher murdered his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, who was the mother of the couple's infant daughter.
"I'll never be able to go away from it," said Crennel, who coached the Browns from 2005-08. "In the business that we're in, we have to try to move on and focus on the job at hand. That's the way life is. These situations occur in life probably more than they should and more than we want them to, and other people have to deal with it and move forward. These men need a strong leader to help them do that, so that's what my job is and what I'm trying to do."
Crennel's father was a career military man. It's obvious that the discipline and strength shown by his father molded Crennel into a man capable of handling such a tragic situation.
"Seeing his strength as a man in different situations, and my mother was a very patient lady," Crennel said. "Seeing her patience and how she dealt with things; that combination helped me get through with it and deal with it."
Somehow Crennel and the Chiefs were able to hold it all together to register just their second win of the season - 27-21 over the Carolina Panthers - one day after the shootings. Crennel never wavered in his belief that the game needed to be played.
"I told them Sunday morning, 'When you go out there on that field and cross that white line, even though you're feeling bad for yourself, when the ball is snapped, the opponent is going to try to beat you,' " Crennel said. "If you're not mentally ready, then you're going to lose.
"They had to focus on that and to focus and produce and play in the game. We were fortunate enough to be able to win. You're probably not going to have that same level of emotion (next Sunday), but the same thing still holds true. Once you cross that white line, the opponent is going to try to beat you."
Also standing tall in the tragedy was quarterback Brady Quinn, who played for the Browns from 2007-2009. Quinn followed arguably his best NFL performance on the field (19-of-23 passing for 197 yards and two touchdowns) with a memorable showing at a post-game press conference, where he talked about the impersonal society in which we live.
"It's just kind of how I feel," Quinn said. "You see it more and more nowadays. From my experience growing up in an age where you didn't have a cell phone when you were in junior high. Now it's like every kid has a cell phone and every kid is on the Internet.
"The relationships you have with people on a face-to-face, daily basis get brushed aside for everything else that's out there. A lot of times people hide their issues and they don't talk to anyone until it's too late."
Quinn was impressed by the way Crennel handled the tragic weekend. He played for Crennel in the 2007 and '08 seasons in Cleveland and is now in his first year with him in Kansas City.
"He was kind of that steady rock in the middle of everything," Quinn said. "He witnessed it, and he put it on himself to be the guy to mentally communicate what happened and at the same time lead us because there were going to be so many emotions involved and a lot of guys looking to see how they should respond."
Crennel knows the importance of moving on and how difficult it can be for those directly touched by the tragedy, including himself. He's avoided the pitfall of wondering if he could have done something to have prevented it.
"I tried to do everything I could," Crennel said. "I feel comfortable with what I tried to do, and it just wasn't enough."