KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The shock of strong safety Eric Berry’s sudden absence resonates at One Arrowhead Drive.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid on Wednesday didn’t have a medical update on Berry, who is currently undergoing testing for possible lymphoma at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
The head coach, however, promised updates would be passed along once they became known.
In the meantime, Reid said the team has absorbed Berry’s message prior to his departure to Atlanta and are focused on the task of playing the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
“He said, ‘It’s about the Broncos now and let’s move on,’” Reid said. “And I think the guys have taken that to heart and that’s where they’re at. They’re focused in and ready to go.”
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton points out Berry has been one of the team’s core players, and Sutton appreciated Berry taking a moment to address the team to inform everybody of the condition.
“I think one of the best things he did was being here Monday and let everybody see him,” Sutton said. “That meant I think a lot to the players because if you just disappear, you’re wondering what happened to him. But he assured the players of his attitude and what he was going to do and how he was going to attack it. And I think that made us coaches, players all feel really good.”
Running back Jamaal Charles said he and Berry were side-by-side during in 2011 as both players recovered from respective ACL injuries.
Charles adds he and Berry have been through a lot together and are good friends, and the star running back indicated Berry will be on a lot of minds when the Chiefs take the field Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I know we will probably dedicate the game to him as well,” Charles said. “E.B. is one of the biggest parts of this franchise to come in and help us go to the playoffs a couple years.”
Defensive end Jaye Howard agreed.
“We’re going in it full steam, especially with Eric Berry,” Howard said. “We’re going to have him in our spirits and play hard for him.”
Still, look no further than defensive end Kevin Vickerson to find a deeper meaning of Berry’s impact on the Chiefs.
While Vickerson is in his first season after joining the team after Week 2, he took it a step above just dedicating Sunday’s game to the All-Pro safety.
“This whole game, this whole season from here on out is for Eric,” Vickerson said. “I think it’s important for us to carry his enthusiasm, his tenacity, his everything that he brings. We have to carry it around, someone has to bring it up, pick it up, play for Eric, play through Eric. We have to be there; we have to be his brothers. We’ve got a family-oriented team around here. Guys have to pull each other up, be there for Eric and get it done for Eric.”
Inside linebacker James-Michael Johnson said Berry is one of the best people he’s met. Johnson said Berry left a lasting impression on the encounter when he arrived to the Chiefs last season after being claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Browns.
It is Berry’s personality and how he treats teammates that has Johnson inspired for Sunday’s game.
“When I first got here, he was real cool to talk to,” Johnson said. “He’s real cordial with everybody, a great guy to have on the team. Somebody like that, you get inspired. You want to come out and play for him because I know he’ll watch the game and root for us. We want to win it for Eric.”
While Berry may not be physically present, he will have the support of his teammates and the Chiefs organization on his road to recovery and perhaps a return to the football field.
But the game of football pales in comparison to what the Chiefs, especially Charles, desire the most of Berry.
“Just having him gone, his presence gone, it’s sad as well,” Charles said. “I just want him to have the best health in the world right now. I want him to get himself better. I don’t care about the game right now. I just want him to be OK, so I can see my friend forever.”