Chiefs safety Berry placed on NFI list, will visit lymphoma specialist
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chiefs safety Eric Berry was placed on the non-football injury list Monday after a mass was found in his chest following last week's game in Oakland. Team trainer Rick Burkholder said Berry may have lymphoma.
Burkholder said that doctors are "75 percent" of the way toward a definitive diagnosis, and that Berry was on his way to Atlanta to be examined by specialists at Emory University.
"They may do further scans. In all likelihood, they'll do a biopsy of one of the lymph nodes or the mass," Burkholder said. "We'll be able to give you more information in the next couple days."
Burkholder spoke during a news conference attended by Chiefs coach Andy Reid, general manager John Dorsey, team president Mark Donovan and chairman Clark Hunt. Berry issued a statement in which he said he was "in shock" but vowed to battle the illness.
"I understand that right now I have to concentrate on a new opponent," Berry said. "I have great confidence in the doctors and the plan they are going to put in place for me to win this fight. I believe that I am in God's hands and I have great peace in that."
The 25-year-old Berry, an All-Pro in 2013, began feeling discomfort in his chest late in Thursday night's loss to the Raiders. He was examined by team physicians Cris Barnthouse and Michael Monaco, and they recommended further tests. The mass on the right side of his chest was discovered on Friday night.
Berry underwent more tests, including a CT scan and blood work, over the weekend. He met with the team on Monday morning, shortly before flying to Atlanta for a consultation with Dr. Christopher Flowers, an associate professor at Emory and a leading expert in lymphoma.
Berry, who grew up near Atlanta, is expected to be evaluated over the next few days.
"He had an opportunity to address the team and feel their love and support, which I think is crucial," Reid said. "When you get in these situations, you hunker down and battle for your life, which is what you do. You have to be in a certain frame of mind, have certain support to back you up, and Eric has that with his family and also the Chiefs."
Reid said Berry insisted that he be the one to address the team. He met first with the player's committee before addressing the rest of the players on Monday.
"There were some guys who were obviously shocked by the information," Reid said. "We're really just a microcosm of life, is what we are in this building. And a small family -- maybe a big family, you could say. So you have the support, people standing up, and they work through the emotional part of it, support each other and most of all support Eric."
Berry was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft, and made an impact almost from the start, earning Pro Bowl honors his rookie season. He missed nearly all of his second year after tearing a ligament in his knee, but returned to start every game the following season. He was voted All-Pro last season after tallying 3 1/2 sacks, recording three interceptions and scoring two touchdowns. He also recovered two fumbles while making 81 tackles.
This year had been a disappointment so far, though. Berry sustained a high ankle sprain in Week 2 against Denver, sidelining him for the next six weeks. And since returning to the field, his play has dropped off.
Hunt, whose family owns the Chiefs, spoke with the safety on Monday. The two have grown close over the years, and Hunt said that "it probably does pull at the heart strings more."
"Putting that aside," Hunt said, "whether it's an employee in the front office or someone on the field, when they're going through a tough time like this, we want to be there to support them."
Several players on rival teams, including the Titans' Jason McCourty and Patriots' Devin McCourty, tweeted their support for Berry after learning the news.
His agent, Chad Speck, said he had seen Berry on Thursday night in Oakland. He received the news of the illness on Saturday and "as the news sunk in, I immediately began praying for Eric."
"Eric is as strong and courageous as anyone I know," Speck said. "When I spoke to him that night, I felt his strength and his faith through the phone."