FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Brady Quinn still hasn't gotten over the tragic events of last December, and he suspects he never truly will come to grips with what happened. Even when he tries to push away the memories, they creep back, often when he least expects it.
Quinn was on his way to the Kansas City Chiefs' training complex the day before a game against the Panthers when he got the call on his cellphone and heard the news: Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who starred at West Babylon High School, had murdered his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then driven to the practice facility before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide in a parking lot.
"I was trying to wrap my mind around how it could even be possible, how someone could do that and allow that to happen," Quinn, who was signed this week as a Jets backup quarterback, told me in a quiet voice at his locker. "Having a daughter and a girlfriend that you love, and you realize the impact it will have on everyone's life, especially his daughter. It was just a lot of those emotions and feelings and thoughts going through your head. The fact that he's your teammate, your friend."
Once they arrived at the facility, Quinn and his Chiefs teammates were redirected away from the area where Belcher shot himself in full view of coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli, both of whom had tried to talk Belcher out of taking his own life. The next 36 hours were mostly a blur, with everyone associated with the team not only trying to come to terms with what had just happened but preparing to play a game the next day.
The Chiefs beat the Panthers, 27-21, one of only two wins the entire season, and Quinn performed brilliantly, going 19-for-23 for 201 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His rating of 132.1 was the second highest of his career.
But afterward, through teary eyes, Quinn said he could only think of his fallen teammate, of the woman he murdered and their infant daughter, Zoey. And why he didn't see the warning signs.
"We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that's fine," Quinn said then, "but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us. Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis."
And now, more than nine months removed from the tragedy, Quinn still struggles at times to make sense of it all. A few weeks ago, when he was in the Seahawks' training camp, a team psychologist asked how he was doing. Quinn realized he hadn't fully gotten over it and probably never will.
"When something like that happens, you're in the midst of a season, and you kind of try to think about it but not think about it,'' he said. "You think about it because it's the loss of your teammate and the family and how they were affected, but you try to push it away because we had games left to play. It was tough. mentioned that I really never had an opportunity to grieve."
Quinn occasionally will reach out to his former Chiefs teammates. He understands that they share this unshakable bond for having been through an event that has no logical explanation.
"I'm not fully over it, and I don't know if a lot of those players will be over it," Quinn said.
And then there is the nagging feeling that he could have done more, that they all could have done more -- whether it was seeing warning signs that might have been there or offering a shoulder to lean on.
"I think a lot of people wish they could have done something differently to help out," he said. "You just try to do the best you can to be as good a person and a teammate to the people in the locker room as you can."
So all he can do now is try to be a better teammate. Be a better person. And be there if someone needs help.
"You have to learn something from it," said Quinn, who organized a players' fund to benefit Zoey. "There are some tragedies that can be stopped if people just take the time to care more about each other. A lot of times, people are more worried about their own problems instead of the people around them. Inevitably, that may affect you.
"Life's not easy," he said. "We're all in this together."