James Winchester's absence leaves void in Chiefs' locker room

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – James Winchester had perhaps his finest moment as an NFL player on Sunday when he was the snapper on the 37-yard field goal by Cairo Santos as time expired, a play that gave the Kansas City Chiefs a 20-17 win over the Carolina Panthers.

The moment was special enough to Winchester that he tweeted about it afterward.

Winchester wasn’t with the Chiefs on Wednesday as they began preparations for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arrowhead Stadium. He was home with his family in Oklahoma a day after his father, Mike, was shot and killed on Tuesday at the Oklahoma City airport, where he worked.

His absence left a void in the Chiefs’ locker room.

“Everybody’s in shock,’’ quarterback Alex Smith said. “Certainly that’s something you never expect to happen or think will happen in your wildest dreams.

“James is just such a caring teammate, a thoughtful teammate, a guy that would sacrifice for his team. So you’re feeling for him. You don’t always know what to do or say but you just try to be there for him as he works through this.’’

Coach Andy Reid said Winchester may return to the Chiefs in time for Sunday’s game. In the meantime, fullback Anthony Sherman worked as the deep snapper during a field goal period in the opening minutes of practice. The Chiefs also worked tight end Travis Kelce as a deep snapper in training camp.

“James is with his family right now, where he needs to be,’’ Reid said. “When he comes back, he comes back. Right now it’s his time to be with his family.’’

Some of Winchester’s teammates said they sent him a text message for support. Punter Dustin Colquitt was one who spoke with Winchester.

It’s just a situation where you’re dying inside for him,’’ Colquitt said. “He’s taking it well. The one thing I took from him is he said, ‘Obviously this is a tough time for my family but I appreciate the prayers and thoughts and God is good.’ When you hear that coming out of his mouth this early and this soon, I know he’ll be able to [handle it].

“He’s in a good place right now. There’s forgiveness in his breath. Obviously you have to do that as a Christian. So he’s going to get tough that, we’re going to get through this. It will make us tighter.’’