Then there’s the tight-rope between offering help and prying into personal lives.
“A football locker room is a microcosm of the rest of society,” said Rams defensive lineman Chris Long. “When do you come up and help somebody out and when do you feel like you’re intruding?”
Browns coach Pat Shurmur and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett both reminded players this week to seek help, whether their problems are with drugs and alcohol, their professional life or things happening at home.
“You have to make clear that there is no judgment involved,” Garrett said. “We’re not judging you. We’re helping you. We’re here to help.”
The NFL has numerous programs to help players and personnel deal with everything from personal and family relationships to the proper use of firearms. They begin even before athletes play a single down in the NFL with symposiums at most college all-star games, and continue with the NFL scouting combine and a three-day rookie boot camp that is required of any player selected in the draft.
The NFL’s security team often works with local and state law enforcement to address issues and questions that players have with guns. The league also has a mandatory life skills program for all players and coaches, along with a 12-week Rookie Success Program that first-year players must complete.
“The resources the league and the teams offer are always good,” Chiefs offensive lineman Ryan Lilja said, “it’s just up to guys to take advantage of it.”
Too often, that doesn’t happen.
“Literally, I said I’ll get down on my hands and knees and beg you to do this because it’s the most important thing there is,” Garrett said. “There’s no issue that you have in your life that we can’t somehow solve in some way and in some way make it better. I just say that from the bottom of my heart, because you never know what guys are going through and you just want to let them know they have a place to turn.”
Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, who was close to Belcher, found himself asking in the days after the shootings whether there was something he could have done. Like Quinn, Johnson wondered whether his teammate was giving off signs that something was amiss in his personal life.
Ultimately, Johnson said, the shootings may serve as a wake-up call to people everywhere to put down their cell phones and start having real conversations.
“We need to talk to each other more as men, not as football players,” he said. “Generally men don’t talk about their feelings. They don’t cry. They don’t show their emotion. As a teammate, we have to do more.”
AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich and Schuyler Dixon, and freelance writer Jason Young contributed to this report.