Browns hurting along with Chris Smith following tragic death of his girlfriend

Freddie Kitchens: “It’s a difficult time, but we’re going to get through it, together."

September 12, 2019
Chris Smith #50 of the Cleveland Browns

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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Berea, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Defensive end Chris Smith wasn’t on the practice field Thursday.

His absence for a practice doesn’t compare to the loss he and the organization are feeling following the tragic death of Smith’s girlfriend in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

“We’re supporting Chris every way possible,” Browns head coach Kitchens said. “It was really kind of an emotional time, it still kind of is from the standpoint of Chris missed the preseason game because the birth of his daughter he just had. Chris is a great dude, good in the locker room. We’re going to support him. Our hearts and our prayers go out to him, his family, her family. Really sad.”

26-year old Petara Cordero was killed when an oncoming car struck her following a spinout, the result of a blown-out tire, on Interstate 90 near West 140th street. Smith and Cordero were unharmed after Smith’s Lamborghini hit the median wall, but the couple got out of the car and were standing on the shoulder awaiting assistance when tragedy struck.

“Chris is one of those guys – his smile is infectious, his personality is infectious. He’s just overall well liked,” Kitchens said. “Of course, everybody in that locker room’s hurting for him.”

Cordero gave birth to their daughter, Haven Harris Smith, last month making the news even more difficult to bear.

“Chris is on my mind right now. His family’s on my mind, her family’s on my mind. The four-week old baby is on my mind,” Kitchens said. “It’s a difficult time, but we’re going to get through it, there’s never going to be an excuse. We’re going to get through it, I promise you that, but we’re going to get through it together.”

Lost in the high-stakes competitive world of professional sports are the everyday challenges that life brings, and it does not discriminate just because they are multimillionaire coaches, players and executives. 

Behind the transactions, coaching decisions and statistics are human beings, and the news that circulated the building Wednesday morning was heartbreaking, and for those closest to Smith, crushing.

“A funny thing happens when you start playing this game of football. You think you’re just playing, you’re coaching, everything’s fine until life hits. Then when life hits, it’s kind of a reality check,” Kitchens said. “We like to talk about balance, we think balance affects all areas. If you’re unbalanced in one area of your life, you’re not going to be balanced in the other areas of your life. I feel like Chris had great balance. But whenever you do have balance, which is the most rewarding way to go about life, something happens to one part of that, of course it’s affected in other areas, too.”

The news was a harsh reminder of just how cruel life can be.

Since taking over as head coach in January, Kitchens has tried to instill a culture of accountability as well as family.  

“You want to be around guys that want to be on the journey with you. To do that, you have to care about each other,” Kitchens said. “If you want to get the most out of your team, at some point you have to start caring about each other. When you do that, that builds relationships.”

Kitchens hopes as a family, the Browns will be able to help one of their own mourn the loss of a loved one, pick up the pieces and somehow return to some semblance of normalcy.

“I know this, when you go through bad things in life, you want people around you that care about you. And that care about you for the right reasons,” Kitchens said. “That has nothing to do with playing a 5-technique. It has nothing to do with taking on a tight end. It has to do with wanting your best interests in mind.”

Football can wait as long as it needs to for Smith, but Kitchens and the Browns are there to support him in every way possible and any way he needs.