The Chiefs offensive starters were introduced before the Thursday Night Football game against the Los Angeles Chargers. So no dramatic entrance for safety Eric Berry, running through a line of cheerleaders and teammates.
Berry saved his welcome for the game.
In action for the first time since the 2017 opener, Berry started. On the game’s second play, Berry blitzed. He didn’t get to quarterback Philip Rivers, but he helped hurry a deep pass attempt to Tyrell Williams that was underthrown and resulted in a Steven Nelson interception.
Berry was back in the business of being an impact player, and they could have used him in the second half as the Chargers rallied for a dramatic 29-28 victory.
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He played all but a handful plays in the first half and led the Chiefs in tackles with six for the half. When he didn’t go to the field with the starters in the second half, Berry’s day was done. Andy Reid said after the game that Berry had reached his snap count limit. “We just wanted to see how he felt as we went,” Reid said. “He gave us some good snaps.”
Berry said he and the team stuck with a playing plan.
“We didn’t want to push it past that,” Berry said. “So we just stayed true to that..It felt pretty good. I got a few different looks I couldn’t get at practice.”
It’s been a long road back. The torn Achilles suffered in a victory at the New England Patriots cost Berry the rest of the 2017 season.
He faced a year-long rehabilitation, and things seemed to be on schedule as the Chiefs arrived at training camp in July.
Berry returned to drills, but on Aug. 11 he was ruled out with what the team described as heel soreness. He didn’t return to practice or play in the preseason games.
Maybe early in the regular season, perhaps by mid-season, Berry would be back. But it wasn’t until Nov. 28 that Berry returned to practice.
When asked about Berry throughout the season, Chiefs coach Andy Reid was consistent and unspecific. Berry was always improving, and was “literally day-to-day.”
Turned out to be 109 days between practices and 29 missed games. But Berry knows something about comebacks.
After a Pro Bowl rookie season in 2010, Berry suffered a torn ACL in the opening game and missed the rest of the year.
Another Pro Bowl season in 2012 followed by an All-Pro year established Berry as one of the NFL’s top safeties.
But in December, 2014, Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and underwent chemotherapy in the offseason. He returned for the 2015 season and was named the NFL’s comeback player of the year.