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Dimitroff admires Pioli's grace after tragedy

The mere mention of Jovan Belcher's name made Scott Pioli quiver.

Pioli's heart obviously still aches for the fallen linebacker. His mind still wanders to the somber day he delivered the eulogy at Belcher's funeral.

The Atlanta Falcons' new assistant general manager will always remember the undrafted kid he brought to Kansas City while serving as the Chiefs' general manager. Yet the circumstances surrounding Belcher's death are something Pioli would rather forget.

It was Pioli and former head coach Romeo Crennel who stood in the parking a lot of the Chiefs facility in December 2012 and urged Belcher not to take his own life after Belcher murdered his girlfriend. Their pleas couldn't convince Belcher from putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger.

Pioli politely declined to discuss the matter when asked to reflect on it last week. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff supported Pioli through the difficult time.

"Though an incredibly private matter for Scott, he and I communicated on a number of levels, and I was there for him whenever he needed to talk about it," Dimitroff said. "He handled it better than I think most people might have been able to handle it. That was not easy.

"Scott is a very strong man. Both figuratively and literally speaking, he has a real grasp of how to deal with things."

Pioli's only extensive public discussion about the incident occurred during in an interview with Dan Patrick last year. Pioli referred to Belcher's suicide as "unlike anything I've ever been through" and said "I haven't made sense of it."

Crennel found it equally hard to comprehend.

"It was a tough thing to deal with, but you have to get through it," Crennel, now the defensive coordinator for the Texans, said last week. "And the kids pulled together and got through it. It's not much you can do about it because it happened. You deal with it and move on.

"When you're in a leadership role, there are going to be some tough times. And Scott was able to deal with the adversity in a good manner, in a professional manner. But that's his nature and that's his makeup. They'll see that in Atlanta."

Former Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn admired how Pioli approached the entire situation.

"There was so much emotion involved that it was hard for anybody to come back to that and look at football the same way," Quinn said in a phone interview Wednesday.

"In regards to Scott Pioli, I couldn't imagine being a guy who was intricately involved in bringing [Belcher] to Kansas City and having to witness that: a young man that he saw grow and mature as a player and a person. When I talked to [Pioli], it was more about feeling as if what we could have done to change the outcome. But he did everything in his power for us afterward. We had a pastor around almost full time to help us get through, answer questions, and understand everything that was taking place. He did everything possible to make sure guys could grieve in the manner they needed to and find some sort of peace after what had taken place."

Quinn marveled over how Pioli kept his poise, at least publicly.

"It probably affected him a lot more than people will ever realize," Quinn said. "Only he really knows how it felt and the images that come back to him. You would have never known as a player because he always tried to stand strong and be an example of strength for us."

Dimitroff sees value in learning from Pioli's handling of the Belcher tragedy.

"It's one of those situations, from an experience standpoint, that I've always felt he could share on a certain level with our staff," Dimitroff said. "It could help educate at a level that, God forbid, any of us have to deal with."