Chiefs’ Eric Berry makes remarkable return to football

July 29, 2015; St. Joseph, MO; Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) returns to the practice field for the first time in eight months. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

July 29, 2015; St. Joseph, MO; Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) returns to the practice field for the first time in eight months. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – With his parents watching on a hill next to the practice field at Missouri Western State University, safety Eric Berry returned to football Wednesday morning.

After five days of extensive testing by the Chiefs medical staff, Berry was cleared to begin practicing after overcoming Hodgkin lymphoma.

It was on Nov. 24, 2014 that the Chiefs announced Berry had a mass in his chest and it was cancer.

He went back home for chemotherapy treatment and was declared cancer free on June 22.

“Amazingly, 247 days later I’m standing before you and telling you that he’s practicing,” head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said Wednesday. “It’s truly a remarkable thing in our business, in this sport and life.”

From the time his Atlanta doctors cleared him to this week, the 6-0, 211-pound Berry was training in Florida.

Here is Berry’s timeline from the past eight months:

• Nov. 24: Chiefs announce Berry has mass in right side of chest.
• Nov. 26: Berry begins treatment sessions with doctors in Atlanta, led by Dr. Christopher Flowers.
• Dec. 10: Berry receives first chemotherapy treatment.
• May 13: Berry completes chemo, concluding a six-phase regimen. “He came out the other side of chemo a pound heavier when he went in,” Burkholder said.
• June 22: Doctors in Atlanta cleared Berry to resume normal activity calling him cancer-free.
• July 23: Berry begins extensive testing under Chiefs medical staff and trainers.
• July 28: The Chiefs cleared Berry to return to the practice field.

On Tuesday, Berry went through a strength test administered by Burkholder and pumped out five squats at 325 pounds and five repetitions at 275 pounds on Tuesday

“He sailed through every test we gave him,” Burkholder said. “Our doctors were pleasantly surprised by his numbers.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid was also impressed with what Berry accomplished during practice.

“He looked pretty good out here today with the work he had,” Reid said. “We’ll keep a close eye on him. One of the things Eric and I talked about, just being honest with us about how you’re feeling out here and sometimes that’s hard for a player to do, especially with his make-up. But he’s been great with that up to this point and I think that will continue through here.”

Berry will continue follow-ups with medical personnel, but the arrow on his path to return to football points up.

“He will have some follow-up with Dr. Flowers and he’ll constantly be followed by us,” Burkholder said. “But right now we’re very optimistic that everything is heading in the right direction.”

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Bob Gretz is the senior editor for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @BobGretzcom.

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