INDIANAPOLIS — Typically, an NFL team is happy any time it’s able to sign a star player to a new contract. But in the case of the Chiefs and Eric Berry, there’s a little extra satisfaction that comes with keeping the All-Pro safety in Kansas City.
On Tuesday, the Chiefs agreed to terms with Berry, the No. 5 overall pick out of Tennessee in 2010, on a six-year deal worth a reported $78 million. The contract includes a reported $40 million in guaranteed money, the most given to any safety in the league.
Take one look at Berry’s on-field accomplishments and they, alone, say all that needs to be said about why the team made such a massive commitment to the 28-year-old star. But considering the way Berry persevered through a tumultuous tenure that included a harrowing bout with cancer, it’s a reward that feels especially well-deserved.
“For all of us that saw Eric when he was fighting cancer and saw when he had no hair on his head — actually, on his face at all, and body — yeah, that part is part of that story,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Wednesday at the NFL Combine. “But even before that, you saw the leadership. You saw the ability — the great ones have this — to make everybody around you better.”
After making the Pro Bowl in three of his first four seasons, Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma late in the 2014 season after experiencing chest pain during and after a November loss in Oakland. Within nine months of his diagnosis, however, Berry had not only beaten the disease, but also returned to the field — a remarkable rally that stunned even his cancer doctor.
From there, Berry earned his second career First Team All-Pro selection in 2015, then did it again during a 2016 campaign that saw him make 62 solo tackles and return two of his four interceptions for touchdowns. But regardless of what Berry does on the gridiron — and make no mistake, he does plenty — it’s his impact on the rest of the roster that Reid calls the most valuable aspect of all.
“It’s great for your locker room,” Reid said. “I’m stating the obvious because he’s one of our team leaders and, really, the heartbeat of that defense. And we’ve got some great leaders on our team. But Eric’s a special guy that way.”
And while others may dial things back after inking a new deal, Reid expects no such regression from Berry — the definition of inspiration.
“When he came back [after the cancer], he even took it up a notch from there, so I think he appreciates every day that he has to do this,” Reid said. “Not that he didn’t before, but there’s just that little bit extra from what he went through.”
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