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Safety Eric Berry, coming back from cancer treatment, cleared to practice with Chiefs

Nearly eight months after he was officially diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, Chiefs safety Eric Berry will return to the practice field on Wednesday. The team announced in a news release Tuesday night that Berry has been cleared to practice on Wednesday with the quarterbacks, rookies and injured players.
Nearly eight months after he was officially diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, Chiefs safety Eric Berry will return to the practice field on Wednesday. The team announced in a news release Tuesday night that Berry has been cleared to practice on Wednesday with the quarterbacks, rookies and injured players. deulitt@kcstar.com

Nearly eight months after he was officially diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, Chiefs safety Eric Berry will return to the practice field on Wednesday.

The team announced in a news release Tuesday night that Berry has been cleared to practice on Wednesday with the quarterbacks, rookies and injured players.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid and head trainer Rick Burkholder will address the media following Wednesday's practice. Berry will address the media at 1 p.m.

Last December, Berry, 26, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, which accounts for about 10 percent of lymphoma cases and is considered to be highly curable.

Lymphoma is a group of cancers of a part of the immune system called the lymph system. The cancers fall into two main types, Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. According to cancer.org, the five-year survival rate for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma is 90 percent for those in stage one and two, 80 percent for stage three and 65 percent for stage four.

Berry was first suspected of having lymphoma following the Chiefs' game against Oakland last November, when he complained of chest discomfort.

After a weekend of testing, team doctors and those at the University of Kansas Hospital determined Berry has a mass on the right side of his chest, and the leading consideration was that Berry had lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.

Berry informed his teammates of his condition, and was placed Berry on the non-football illness list, which ended his season. By putting him on the NFI list, the Chiefs were under no obligation to pay him, but they paid anyway over the last six weeks he spent on the list.

Berry, of Fairburn, Ga., went to Atlanta following the tests and was treated at Emory University Hospital. Standard treatment for lymphoma is chemotherapy. Hodgkin disease patients also sometimes receive radiation therapy.

Since then, Berry and those close to him have remained very quiet about his recovery, but over the past eight months, the Chiefs have consistently said Berry has been making positive progress in his recovery.

In January, team chairman Clark Hunt and John Dorsey traveled to Fairburn to visit Berry. Dorsey said that at the time, Berry was “laughing,” “in good spirits” and “looked great.”

In April, Berry's younger brother Evan ― a sophomore defensive back for the Tennessee Volunteers ― told the media in Knoxville that his older brother was doing well as he underwent treatment.

“He’s doing really good,” Evan Berry told reporters at the time. “I think he has three more treatments left. To be honest, I don’t really see it affecting him. He’s a very strong person, and he’s continued to keep strong.”

Evan Berry said he was originally worried about his other brother after he received the diagnosis late last season, but Eric remained confident he would beat it.

“It was scary,” Berry said. “But he wasn’t worried, so I wasn’t worried.”

On Tuesday, the day rookies and quarterbacks reported to training camp in St. Joseph, Reid said some news about Berry would be imminent.

“Eric's going through some tests now,” Reid said. “We should have an answer for you on Eric within a day here. So far everything's positive. But we don't want to give you anything until we have everything.”

Reid said Berry, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma late last season, was having tests done in St. Joseph.

“He's going through the physical,” Reid said. “He has had some physical tests that they put him through, just to see where he's at. We haven't finished all that but we'll get that to you. We're not going to hide anything from you on this.”

When asked if Berry has managed to resume some degree of training, Reid said Berry looked good.

“He's kept himself in good shape, believe it or not,” Reid said. “He's really done a good job there. But like I said, he's got to go through all the formalities here.”

Reid was later asked what it would mean to have Berry return to football at some point ― a possibility that is now a reality, thanks to the good news the Chiefs received Tuesday following the results of those tests.

“Obviously that's what we all want to see,” Reid said. “We're all fans of his in this situation.”

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @TerezPaylor. Tap here to download the new Red Zone Extra app for iOS and Android devices.

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