November 23, 2014

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Notes: Coach Romeo Crennel still dealing with Chiefs tragedy

BEREA — On Saturday, Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel watched Jovan Belcher, his young linebacker, commit suicide by shooting himself in the head. Belcher had earlier killed his girlfriend, who was the mother of their 3-month-old daughter.

On Wednesday, Crennel and the Chiefs attended a memorial service for Belcher.

“You can’t go away from it. I’ll never be able to go away from it,” Crennel said Wednesday morning on a conference call with Browns media. “But in the business that we’re in, we have to try to move on and we have to try to focus on our job at hand. And that’s the way life is also.

“These young men, they need a strong leader to help them do that. And so that’s what my job is and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Many times after a suicide, the people left behind wonder if they could’ve done anything differently to prevent the tragedy. Crennel isn’t going there.

“No, not really because I tried to do everything I could and I feel comfortable with what I tried to do and it just wasn’t enough,” he said. “It’s been overwhelming but I try to compartmentalize and I have moments here and there and you get past your moment and then do what you have to do to keep things going.”

Crennel was coach of the Browns from 2005-08 before being fired. He ended 2011 as Kansas City’s interim coach, then was hired on a permanent basis.

Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn, who also played for Crennel in Cleveland, praised Crennel’s leadership through the difficult time.

“There’s a lot of times when you look at situations like this and then you see why maybe God puts people in certain places,” Quinn said. “He was that steady rock in the midst of everything.”

Crennel said the team has provided grief counselors for the players, but he’s also been there for support.

“They had strong feelings for Jovan and they’re hurting and they needed an arm around ’em,” he said. “So I provided that.”

Browns left tackle Joe Thomas played for Crennel for two years. He believes Crennel was the perfect coach to lead the Chiefs through the tragedy.

“He’s a very calm, level-headed, been-around-the-league-forever, seen-it-all type coach,” Thomas said. “Never gets too high, never too low, very fatherly type figure to the players, everyone respects him.

“Just his demeanor and his attitude is the perfect mix to be able to kind of sail that ship through choppy waters a little bit and kinda be that leader that organization needs.”

“In situations like this, your character becomes revealed,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “Romeo revealed that he is an outstanding leader.”

SHOCK AND SADNESS

Quinn said it’s too soon to have processed the extent of the tragedy.

“Honestly I feel like the emotions are still pretty raw,” he said. “After the season it might be something where you can sit down and reflect on all of it. Right now it’s pretty tough.

“There’s a memorial service today for Jovan. We’re preparing for Cleveland. We’re trying to direct all our focus to our preparation for the game, then afterwards we’ll be able to hopefully seek that peace that everyone’s trying to find with the whole situation.”

Quinn was asked if the weekend’s events are life- or career-changing.

“I don’t know. We’re still kind of in the midst of the storm right now,” he said. “You’ve got to try to be able to climb to a higher point to get a better vantage point and I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that until we have some more time away from the situation.”

YOUNG IS BACK

Free safety Usama Young practiced for the first time since sustaining a concussion Nov. 25 against the Steelers.

“I feel great,” he said.

He said it was his first concussion and happened when he tackled tight end Heath Miller. He was knocked unconscious but said he remembers everything.

“I made a big hit,” Young said. “I just went in on a big tight end with a lineman on his back so that’s about 500 or 600 pounds coming at me full speed ahead, and it was all bad for me. I’m at 205 and I ended up taking the brunt of that hit and being knocked out.”

Young said the concussion taught him the importance of being fully recovered before trying to play again.

“Anytime it’s something involved with your head, it’s scary,” he said. “Since I never had one, it was one of those wakeup calls, man. Not to say I thought I was invincible or anything.”

Young had started nine straight games but lately was splitting time with undrafted rookie Tashaun Gipson. Young played in the base defense, and Gipson entered in nickel and dime packages. Gipson said they used the rotation again Wednesday.

“I see it as every chance I’m out there I’m trying to make plays,” Young said. “If I’m not on the field in some plays, of course, I want to be. But I’ve just got to make the most out of every play that I am out there.”

INJURY REPORT

The Browns are as healthy as they’ve been all season, with all 53 players practicing. That’s a rarity in the NFL, especially this late in the year.

Young, special teamer/safety Ray “Bubba” Ventrone (calf) and receiver/special teamer Joshua Cribbs (shoulder/chest) were the only players limited.

Tight end Jordan Cameron (groin), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle), running back Trent Richardson (chest/rib/finger) and defensive end Frostee Rucker (shoulder/finger) were full participants.

** For the Chiefs, cornerback Brandon Flowers (hamstring), linebacker Derrick Johnson (hamstring), safety Abram Elam (quadriceps), guard Jeff Allen (illness), defensive lineman Allen Bailey (ankle) and center/guard Ryan Lilja (knee) didn’t practice.

Safety Eric Berry (hand), linebacker Tamba Hali (knee), tackle Branden Albert (back) and safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) were limited.

EXTRA POINTS

Shurmur liked the premiere of the Travel Channel reality series, “NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns.” It airs Tuesday nights at 10.

“What that show shows you is there’s a lot of very talented, hardworking people behind the scenes that help make this thing go,” he said. “I hope that’s what folks take away from the episodes that they watch.”

** Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz was named the game captain for Sunday. He’s the fourth rookie to earn the honor.

** Richardson raved about Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Richardson said he’d vote for Manziel.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.