KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Heads bowed, past and present Chiefs players turned out Wednesday for a memorial service for teammate Jovan Belcher, who killed his girlfriend and then himself over the weekend.
Belcher shot Kasandra Perkins, 22, on Saturday at the home they shared with their 3-month-old daughter, Zoey. He then drove to the Chiefs practice facility, where coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and defensive assistant Gary Gibbs witnessed Belcher commit suicide.
The team altered its practice schedule so players could attend the afternoon service. The media wasn't allowed inside.
Chiefs Hall of Famer Bobby Bell said Pioli and an uncle of Belcher's spoke at 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."
Before the service, veteran offensive lineman Ryan Lilja said some players have taken advantage of counseling services and there has been a change around the team. "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."
Belcher's mother, Cheryl Shepherd, who had been living with the couple, expressed her love for both her son and his girlfriend.
"That's my son, and I love him," Shepherd said via telephone. "She's my daughter-in-law, just like my daughter."
In her 911 call, released publicly Wednesday, Shepherd begs Perkins to "stay with me" while asking for an ambulance. She tells the dispatcher that Perkins is "still breathing but please hurry. … They were arguing."
She has temporary custody of the couple's baby.
Ryan sticks with Sanchez: Coach Rex Ryan said Mark Sanchez will return as starter this week over Greg McElroy, who led the Jets to a winning TD last week. "I knew at some point before I died, I'd start at quarterback again," Sanchez said. "I'm glad it's this week."
Ben's return? Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went through his first serious workout since spraining his right shoulder and dislocating a rib Nov. 12, reporting no major issues, so he appears to be on track to start this week. "I'm getting there," he said. Coach Mike Tomlin declined to name Roethlisberger the starter over Charlie Batch just yet.
Cardinals: Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said he has apologized to teammate Kerry Rhodes for the pair's argument during the waning seconds of a loss. The former Seminole said Rhodes has forgiven him. Rhodes tried to persuade Dockett to allow the Jets to score so the Cardinals could get the ball back and try for a winning touchdown. "It's something that I don't believe in, something that I didn't understand," Dockett said. "It was frustrating at the time. … I play with passion and I'll never quit." Also, John Skelton will start at quarterback in place of rookie Ryan Lindley against Seattle, coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
Jaguars: With three backs injured, the team plans to start former fullback Montell Owens against the Jets. He has 21 carries in his seven-year career.
Packers: Running back Ryan Grant, fifth on the team's all-time rushing list (4,016 yards), was signed to add depth in the wake of Cedric Benson (foot) and Johnny White (concussion) going on injured reserve.
Ravens: Linebacker Ray Lewis, initially expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his triceps two months ago, returned to practice. There is no timetable for his return to playing.
Seahawks: Cornerback Brandon Browner dropped the appeal of his suspension for using performance-enhancing substances and will miss the final four games of the regular season.
Vikings: Receiver Percy Harvin (sprained left ankle) was put on season-ending injured reserve.