FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons fullback Mike Cox, who played three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, was close friends with Jovan Belcher, the central figure in the murder-suicide Saturday that has rocked locker rooms around the NFL.
“It was kind of disbelief, when I first heard it,” said Cox, when asked about incident on Tuesday. “It’s still kind of unbelievable to me.”
Cox played for the Chiefs from 2008-10, appearing in 39 games and making 17 starts. In practice, a primary job was to block Belcher, a backup inside linebacker in 2009 and 2010.
“We met every time from training camp and through practice,” Cox said. “He was just a quiet guy. A good teammate. He was always there for you.”
Cox has closely followed the events in the wake of that tragic Saturday, replaying conversations with Belcher during their time together.
But he can’t come up with any indicator or clues as to what may have led Belcher to kill his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then himself.
“You just never really know,” Cox said. “No one brings all of their stuff into the locker room, but it is still kind of unbelievable.”
The Falcons didn’t address the incident as a team, but most of the players have discussed it.
“We’ve got such a tight knit group and we have (ever) since we’ve gotten here,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “It was a very tragic situation there in Kansas City and we feel for the families and the organization. It’s something that everybody has to deal with.”
Some Falcons said they’d keep an eye on Cox and how he’s coping. He said he’d welcome the comfort.
“We have such a family-oriented locker room,” Cox said. “No one should be embarrassed to truly and freely talk with your teammates. We are all brothers in here, so we need to have each other’s back.”
Veteran center Todd McClure said he plans to check in with the linemen.
“It’s definitely a tough situation,” McClure said. “It’s something that the NFL, players in general, need to check up and make sure that everybody is doing alright.”
The Falcons have several support mechanisms in place. They have an over-30 club and a rookie club for age-specific groups in the locker room.
Kevin Winston, the team’s senior director of player engagement, helps players with career counseling, financial and family matters and post-football career options.
In addition to Winston, Jason Webster serves as the team chaplain. Both Winston and Webster are former NFL players.
“That’s a heart (wrenching) story,” cornerback Christopher Owens said. “My prayers go out to that gentlemen’s family and the family of the victim and the daughter that was involved.”
The Falcons have tried to create a family atmosphere, where players would feel comfortable coming forward in case of a troubling situation.
“Every day, when we always break we say ‘Fam,’ like we are a family or like we are a tribe,” Owens said. “… We are close and we all check up on each other. It’s something that we do.”
Some players couldn’t hide their sadness over a case of senseless violence.
“You hate it for all of the families involved,” cornerback Dunta Robinson said. “As an athlete, that’s not one of the things you ever think is going to happen. Not even in your wildest dream do you think that’s a possibility. It just opens your eyes.”
Robinson has trouble imagining how the Chiefs are coping, much more what is going to happen to Belcher’s child.
“I was asked a question: Do I think they did the right thing in playing the football game (Sunday),” Robinson said. “I don’t think you can make that call unless you’re in that situation. I think they did what they thought was best for them and the organization.
“It was a good way for them to try to deal with it and grieve all at once. … There’s a three-month old baby girl that is going to be left alone and with a lot of questions one day. She’s going to hear about this in her future. You just hope that she has good people around her that are going to take care of her.”
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