KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ryan Lilja's eyes welled as he recalled the emotions in the Chiefs locker room moments after Sunday's 27-21 win over the Panthers.
The victory came a day after linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend — police said he shot her nine times at their apartment in front of his mother, the New York Post reported — and later committed suicide at the team's training facility in front of coach Romeo Crennel, GM Scott Pioli and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs.
"It was different," said Lilja, an offensive lineman and nine-year veteran. "There were emotions that guys aren't used to feeling after wins or losses. Guys were confused. … A lot of hugs, a lot of tears and a lot of guys saying, 'I love you' and meaning it."
Many players' eyes were moist with tears as they talked about how difficult it was to deal with the loss of a teammate and anger over Belcher, 25, murdering Kasandra Perkins, 22, with whom he had a 3-month-old daughter, Zoey.
Tackle Eric Winston said the day probably was hardest on running back Jamaal Charles, whose wife was a cousin of Perkins'. Belcher and Perkins met through Charles, said Brianne York, a friend of Perkins'.
Winston said he told Charles before the game, on behalf of the offensive line, "We're going to go carry you." Charles had 127 yards.
Charles was not available to the media after the game.
"I feel for Jamaal more than anybody," Winston said. "(Perkins) was family to him. … I'm sure he has some conflicting emotions, much more and much deeper, and much more vigorous than we have."
Crennel said he did not want to discuss seeing Belcher kill himself. "Hopefully you'll respect my wishes on that because it wasn't a pretty sight," he said. Pioli and Gibbs did not speak to reporters.
Crennel knew he had to be strong for his players, especially after it was decided in a meeting with the team's six captains Saturday the game would be played. "I'm even-keeled, and I felt that I would be able to handle it," he said, adding "everybody was on board" with the decision to play.
Players had discussed setting up a trust fund for Zoey. But, Winston said, "we can toss all the money we want at it, but that's not going to bring her parents back."
Belcher and Perkins briefly lived apart but had gotten back together by Thanksgiving, York said. The couple had argued about "normal couple stuff," and Perkins had gone to visit her family in Texas after Halloween, York said. Perkins also briefly stayed with Charles' wife.
The root of their arguments was that "sometimes (Belcher) would just be down in his man cave or whatever" and Perkins wanted more family time, York said. "They ended up wanting to try to work it out, and the next time I went over and visited, she told me everything was good … so I thought everything was fine."
Kansas City police spokesman Darin Snapp reiterated the couple had argued recently but couldn't provide details. Reports said the couple argued after Perkins went to a concert Friday night, then out with friends and got home around 1 a.m. Saturday.