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Eric Berry: “The whole cancer deal was actually a privilege”

Berry looked back on his three missed seasons, including battling cancer in 2015, on Saturday afternoon

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs-Minicamp Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry did it again Saturday afternoon in St. Joseph, this time after his first time practicing in pads in more than 10 months.

Berry, 29, ruptured his Achilles last September during the Chiefs’ opening night win against the New England Patriots, leaving the team to play the whole season without him.

He recovered in time for this training camp, and while that’s well and good, that isn’t the it I am referring too.

Asked about whether he feels cheated missing nearly three full seasons in his eight-year career (Berry also missed 2011 with a torn ACL), he answered no. And when it came to the 2015 season—you know, the one he missed battling freaking cancer—he said he was grateful.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

“The whole cancer deal was actually a privilege,” Berry said. “To be honest with you, it was a blessing at the same time because I learned so much. I helped so many people and so many people helped me as well. They inspired me just being able to connect with them through that common thread of having cancer and being able to overcome it.

“I can’t really tell you where I would be without those situations either.”

Berry defeated Hodgkin’s lymphoma, returning to the Chiefs to become a first-team All-Pro in 2016. In the process, he won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.

Now he’s a popular candidate once again.

“That’s our leader, man,” cornerback Steve Nelson said. “He’s been here the longest. He’s been doing it for a long time for a high level, so to have him back and his presence, his presence alone man, is motivating.”

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Before he left for camp, Berry said he checked in with his father, James. If you are familiar with Berry’s cancer story, James was by Berry’s side throughout his entire battle. A phenomenal chef, James would cook whatever Berry wanted to eat on a nightly basis.

This year, James encouraged Berry not to get discouraged if he had to take it slower at camp, and as usual, James’ words did the trick.

“Sometimes I might tend to overthink things at times instead of just doing it, and he’s always been the person to ground me and keep me humble and also put things in perspective for me,” Berry said. “Sometimes we get caught up in our head a little bit too much. He’s always been there to be like, ‘Just take care of business and you’ll be fine.’

“My dad, he’s a different cat. He’s very wise. We could be watching Lord of the Rings. We could be watching any type of movie, and he’ll connect it to life or any type of way he feels like he could teach me something or teach anybody something, that’s how he develops and gets his point across. I love him to death.”

The 2016 ESPYS - Show
Berry winning the Comeback Player of the Year at the ESPYs
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Inspired and humbled by his father, Berry said he came to St. Joseph with a strong awareness of what he is capable of on the field. What this month will be about will be shaking off that cognitive rust.

“I think it is more mental,” he said. “Just understanding what I need to work on and get the good looks and also just staying patient. I tend to want to get out there and make plays and stuff like that, but I have to understand that it is a long season and make sure I take my time.”

Knowing head coach Andy Reid, Berry will have all the time he needs to adjust.

Patrick Mahomes may be the new show in town, but this is still Berry’s team.

“Eric’s our leader,” Reid said. “We appreciate when he’s out there going. The guys feed off him. It’s the whole story. It’s not just that it’s Eric Berry, It’s the whole story, the whole thing that he went through. The fact that he does everything out here and works his tail off. It’s a phenomenal story.”

That story includes three lost seasons, its latest chapter including clarity.

“I learned so much through all three of those processes,” Berry said. “I just keep growing. I can’t tell you where I would be without them.”

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