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“They said the player was actually thanking them for everything they’d done for him,” he said. “They were just talking to him and he was thanking them and everything. That’s when he walked away and shot himself.”

At Belcher’s mother’s home on Long Island, relatives declined to talk to reporters. A purple SUV in the home’s driveway was flying a small Kansas City Chiefs flag.

Perkin’s Facebook page shows the couple smiling and holding the baby.

“His move to the NFL was in keeping with his dreams,” said Jack Cosgrove, who coached Belcher at the University of Maine. “This is an indescribably horrible tragedy.”

Belcher is the latest among several players and NFL retirees to die from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in the past couple of years. The death of the beloved star Junior Seau, who shot himself in the chest in at his California home last May, sent shockwaves around the league.

Seau’s family, like those of other suicide victims, has donated his brain tissue to determine if head injuries he sustained playing football might be linked to his death.

Belcher did not have an extensive injury history, though the linebacker showed up on the official injury report on Nov. 11, 2009, as being limited in practice with a head injury. Belcher played four days later against the Oakland Raiders.

Earlier this year, the NFL provided a grant to help establish an independently operated phone service that connects players, coaches, team officials and other staff with counselors trained to work through personal and emotional crises. The NFL Life Line is available 24 hours a day.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said that he spoke to Pioli after the shooting.

“I can tell you that you have absolutely no idea what it’s like to see someone kill themselves,” James said. “You can take your worst nightmare and put someone you know and love in that situation, and give them a gun and stand three feet away and watch them kill themselves. That’s what it’s like.

“It’s unfathomable,” James said. “It’s something you would love to wash away from your mind, but you can’t do it. There’s nothing like it. I don’t what else to tell you. Think about your worst nightmare and multiply it by five.”

The season has been a massive disappointment for the Chiefs, who were expected to contend for the AFC West title. They’re just 1-10 and mired in an eight-game losing streak marked by injuries, poor play and fan upheaval, with constant calls the past several weeks for Pioli and Crennel to be fired.

The Twitter account for a fan group known as “Save Our Chiefs” recently surpassed 80,000 followers, about 17,000 more than the announced crowd at a recent game. The group was organizing a “Can Scott Pioli” food drive for Sunday that has since been canceled.

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Associated Press Writer Heather Hollingsworth contributed to this report.