CLEVELAND — There are times in the National Football League where issues and events off the field transcend the game, and that is what the Cleveland Browns find themselves dealing with while trying to prepare for a Week 2 Monday Night Football matchup against the New York Jets.
The Browns are mourning the loss of a family member, as Petara Cordero, girlfriend of defensive end Chris Smith, was killed in a car crash in the early-morning hours Wednesday.
“I think as a team -- not just as a defense, as a team -- we have to really corral and circle the wagons and really support one another and really support him from a distance. A very sad and tragic situation as we all know.
“He does bring a lot of energy. His passion, his enthusiasm each and every day, in the building and on the field, is unparalleled. Right now, we are thinking about him in a different situation. I know he is thinking about us, as well. I think all the guys are going to step up in regards to that as far as trying to bring the energy, really go out there and play hard for him because I know he wishes he was here, as well.”
News of Cordero’s passing hit home with everyone in the Browns’ locker room, particularly left guard Joel Bitonio, who became a father back in January and could not imagine what Smith is going through right now.
Smith and Cordero celebrated the birth of their daughter, Haven Harris Smith, weeks before the accident.
“That was a punch in the gut,” Bitonio said. “I think the whole team is thinking about him every chance we get. That is one of our brothers, and for him to be in that situation, I could not put myself in that situation. Me and my wife sat down last night and really just talked about things that were just like, ‘Man, that is tough. What are we going to do to help this guy?’
“We know words cannot really help him, so we are trying to build him up as much as possible, and I know the D line is really trying to take care of him over there. It is a tough situation. I think you forget about things when you are in this building, and sometimes, the outside world.
“You forget that we love this game and this game does a lot of things for us, but football comes second to a lot of things sometimes. That is one of those things. We are trying to pick Chris up and his family and his little baby and all of those things. We are thinking about him every chance we get.”
According to Cleveland police, Smith was driving a Lamborghini when he experienced a tire blow out and struck the center median wall near the W. 140th Street exit ramp at about 2 a.m. Both Smith and Cordero exited the vehicle to observe the damage.
Shortly after the tire blowout, a 47-year-old female drove a Mazda 3 into the Lamborghini’s open door while veering to the right and struck Cordero, who was standing on the shoulder. Cordero passed away at Fairview Hospital.
Currently, police are waiting on toxicology reports for the driver of the Mazda 3. Smith was uninjured and not impaired at the time of his crash.
“It is tough,” wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. “I was thinking about it last night, and I can only imagine where he is at right now. We are all praying for him, his family and her family. Right now, we just have to pull together for him.”