In the aftermath of the Chiefs’ season-opening win over New England on Thursday, star tight end Travis Kelce was honest about his feelings.
Yes, he was happy with the win against the defending Super Bowl champions. No, it did not feel as good as it should have.
Star safety Eric Berry’s season-ending rupture to his left Achilles tendon made sure of that.
“I’m on a bit of a low right now because my guy E.B. is down,” Kelce admitted in the locker room afterward. “I love him to death –– he’s our fearless leader and to see him go down in the first game breaks your heart.”
The amount of clout Berry, 28, earned with his teammates the last two seasons cannot be overstated –– the man beat cancer in less than a year and came back to earn all-pro and Pro Bowl nods two straight seasons. When he speaks, fellow football players listen.
Berry’s presence would have been nice to have in the building Monday, when the Chiefs began refocusing their efforts toward their Week 2 opponent, Philadelphia. But instead, thanks to the injury, Berry was forced to travel to Green Bay, Wis., on Monday to see Dr. Bob Anderson, who heads up the NFL’s foot and ankle committee and performed the repairs on both of inside linebacker Derrick Johnson’s torn Achilles.
“He’s respected as the best foot and ankle surgeon in the country,” Chiefs head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said Monday.
Burkholder said Berry –– was also having problems with his other Achilles tendon (on the right side) throughout the preseason, causing him to miss practice and games –– has already begun rehabbing the injury and is ticketed for a six-month recovery, though Burkholder acknowledged that’s just a “ballpark” figure due to Berry’s history of returning from adversity quicker than anticipated.
“Eric Berry has done some amazing things in the past,” Burkholder said.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid seems to have little doubt Berry will be back to his old form sooner rather than later. Berry’s attitude, he said, is already in the right place.
“Eric’s doing good with it,” Reid said. “I mean, he’s overcome cancer, right? I mean, he’s fought for his life before.
“Is he disappointed? Absolutely. Big-time disappointed. But at the same time, he understands there he’ll have another opportunity to play. And there was a point in his life where he didn’t know if he would. So he’s going to attack the surgery and the rehab after the surgery with, I’m sure, a lot of intensity. He’ll be back.”
In the meantime, Reid hopes teammates take their cue from Berry regarding his pending absence.
“The players, they understand you’re not going to replace Eric Berry –– that’s not what you’re going to do,” Reid said. “Not the whole package of Eric Berry. He’s one of the great ones in the game, probably the best safety right now in the game of football. But we have guys in that position that will step in and fill that role that their teammates have a lot of confidence in.”
Reid reiterated that fourth-year pro Daniel Sorensen and second-year pro Eric Murray will be the primary fill-ins, though the way each is deployed will likely depend on the Chiefs’ defensive package at a given time.
“Sorensen plays all over the place,” Reid said. “But those are the two guys.”
Sorensen is far more experienced than Murray, logging 49 percent of the team’s defensive snaps a year ago compared to only 6 percent for Murray. But Sorensen already has a consistent role on defense as a third safety –– he lines up as a linebacker when the Chiefs use their dime personnel in certain passing situations. Finding a replacement for him in that role, which requires a defensive back to have extraordinary toughness to hold up in the box against the run, could be difficult. If Sorensen were to stay in that role, the door would open for Murray, a former cornerback, to log more snaps in dime situations.
The Chiefs also signed fifth-year pro Steven Terrell over the weekend to take Berry’s roster spot. Terrell, who ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash at Texas A&M’s pro day in 2013, spent the entire preseason with the Chiefs and led the team in tackles with 17.
The 5-foot-10, 197-pound Terrell — who went undrafted in 2013 — has appeared in 32 regular-season games, all with the Seahawks. In 2016, Terrell filled in for All-Pro Earl Thomas and finished with 26 tackles and a pass deflection.
Reid said the Chiefs liked what they saw from Terrell during the preseason. That makes sense, considering they opted to sign him instead of calling up rookie sixth-round safety Leon McQuay from the practice squad.
“We thought he had a good feel (for the game) when he was here,” Reid said of Terrell. “He gives you some special teams (ability). He’s good on the back end — he’s smart. We liked the way played, obviously, when he was here. And he seemed to be a good communicator back there, which you need.”
The only other injury the Chiefs acknowledged Monday was Bennie Logan’s. The 6-foot-2, 315-pound starting nose tackle is dealing with a knee/quad contusion. He finished the New England game with five tackles.
“But there’s a pretty good chance he practices (this week),” Reid said.