After sitting out the entire 2019-2020 season, free agent Safety, Eric Berry, plans to return to the NFL this offseason.
Berry, 31, was drafted 5th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Berry was drafted out of the University of Tennesse, where he was a two-time unanimous All-American, two-time First All-SEC, and Jim Thorpe Award winner in 2009, recognizing him as the top defensive back in college football. Berry skipped his senior season and declared for 2010 Draft, where he became the highest-drafted defensive back since Sean Taylor in 2004, and the highest-drafted Tennessee Volunteer since Jamal Lewis.
In his first rookie season, Berry became the first rookie for the Chiefs to represent the team in the Pro Bowl since linebacker Derrick Thomas. Following his rookie season, the injuries that would keep him off the field and define his career.
In 2011, Berry tore his ACL in the season opener and missed the entire season. Berry returned in 2012 and would go to the Pro Bowl for two consecutive seasons following the injury.
However, injury struck again as Berry suffered a high ankle sprain in 2014, causing him to miss 5 straight games. Berry would return later in the season, but would not be on the field long.
On December 8, 2014, Eric Berry left the game against the Oakland Raiders with chest pains. Berry was later sent to the hospital. After being tested, the results displayed a mass in Berry’s chest and he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Berry was placed on the Non-Football Illness List (NFI), ending his 2014 season. The news was devastating to Berry, the organization, and the fans. The Chiefs started selling shirts to rally behind Berry and his efforts to get cured and come back to football, which wasn’t that far down the road.
On July 28, 2015, the Kansas City Chiefs announced that Berry had been cleared to resume football activities and was declared clear of cancer nearly nine months after his diagnosis.
Berry came back in 2015, with 61 tackles, 10 passes defended, and 2 interceptions. Berry ranked fifth in the league with an overall grade of 87.7, and fourth in the league in pass coverage with a grade of 85.2. Berry went on and played in the 2016 Pro Bowl, but that’s not all. Eric Berry was named the 2016 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, after his incredible recovery from cancer.
In 2017, Berry signed a 6-year, $78 million extension with the Chiefs. In the first game of the year after signing the extension, Eric Berry tore his achilles and his season was over. This achilles injury would be the demise of his time in Kansas City.
Berry missed the rest of the 2017-2018 season, but he would not return to action until week 13 of the 2018-2019 season against the Chargers at home, with the Chargers winning at the last second. Berry did not appear to play much in the rest of the games throughout the regular season and playoffs as lingering heel issues, kept him from being fully healthy.
During the offseason, the Chiefs released Eric Berry after the signing of Tyrann Mathieu. Berry opted to not have surgery to repair the lingering issues in his heel. With the dangers of him re-tearing his achilles, the Chiefs thought it was best to release him.
Berry did not play this season. Despite having offers, Berry purposely did not play and took a sabbatical. Berry took the time off to physically and mentally get himself in better shape to have a more impactful career going forward. Only time will tell if the sabbatical was effective for Berry to be an impactful player on any team.
The 3-time First-Team All-Pro and 5-time Pro Bowler will get attention during free agency as he hopes to get another shot in the NFL. The big questions now are: Will the Chiefs look to sign him? Will Berry be open to a reunion in KC or will he look elsewhere to continue his career?