Column: Game must go on in the NFL

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 1, 2012 at 7:36 pm •  Published: December 1, 2012

That two people died in a murder-suicide involving a current player isn't an indictment of the NFL because the same kind of crime happens in neighborhoods around the country on an all too regular basis. And there's no empirical evidence to suggest that NFL players are more prone to hurt people than anyone else.

By all accounts, Belcher was a quiet fourth-year player who graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in child development and won a starting spot in the NFL through hard work despite not being drafted.

"He was a good, good person ... a family man. A loving guy," said family friend Ruben Marshall, who said he coached Belcher in youth football on Long Island. "You couldn't be around a better person."

Pictures on Perkins' Facebook page show a seemingly happy couple cuddling their infant daughter.

But things aren't always as they seem, especially in the NFL. We see the players making big checks and driving big cars, but it's a tough job to get and a brutal one to keep.

The pressures to perform are immense, the contracts never really guaranteed. A player like Belcher is always one bad game away from getting the ax and being forced to find a new career.

And we haven't even begun to explore the possibility of brain injury. Too many former NFL players have done too many irrational things for it not to be raised as a question. Belcher was listed in a 2009 injury report as being limited in practice because of a head injury but not much else is known.

There are no easy answers.

So they will play a game Sunday. As difficult as it will be for the Chiefs, it won't be easy for the Panthers, either, playing through a delicate situation they never could have imagined.

The fans will come to cheer, but hopefully they also come to reflect, too.

In the midst of a miserable season for the Chiefs, nothing can be more miserable than this.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg