Berry is quite possibly the game’s best safety, and he’s also a major locker room leader.
“You’re not going to replace Eric Berry with another Eric Berry. That’s not what happens,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told ESPN via conference call. “But the guys know that Eric would be disappointed if they left off the accelerator at all. I think we’ll be OK there.”
Berry has been placed on injured reserve and will rehab so he can be ready for next season.
The injury occurred while the Chiefs player was covering Rob Gronkwoski on a passing route. Berry had nearly shut down Gronkwoski, who only had 33 yards on two catches. But Berry’s huge game came with a price as he came up hobbling on a fourth-quarter play.
He sat on the turf while the training staff attended to him. Berry didn’t look to be in excruciating pain. However, it was obvious the injury was serious when he was carted off.
Not the First Major Injury for Berry or the Chiefs
Eric Berry is no stranger to serious injuries. He missed the majority of 2011 after tearing the ACL in his left knee. He also missed 10 games in 2014 after being diagnosed and treated for lymphoma. Berry played all 16 contests the following year after both incidents.
Kansas City has had some bad luck with notable injuries in recent years. This includes two injuries to star linebacker Derrick Johnson. Luckily, Johnson returned this summer and has been a full participant ever since.
But now KC must find a way to replace Berry, who is coming off his best season. He tallied 77 tackles, four interceptions, and two defensive touchdowns in 2016. Berry was dominant in a victory over the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. And he was a huge reason why the team finished 12-4 and won the AFC West title.
His play last year earned him a 6-year, $78 million deal in the offseason. Berry is now the highest paid safety in the league.
“I’m on a bit of a low right now,” said Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. “I love him to death. He’s our fearless leader, and to see him go down in the first game breaks your heart.”
Berry will still Play a Locker Room Role
Reid believes that Berry’s presence in the locker room will be important.
As for Thursday night’s victory over New England, Reid had to rally his troops and make sure they finished the game strong.
“He had an opportunity to talk to the team last night after the game,” explained Reid. “And I know he’d be very disappointed if anybody hung their head or let that be an issue.
“And I thought the guys handled it very well after Eric got hurt. Our guys were able to kind of muster it up and keep the emotional football part of it in focus there.”
How will Chiefs Replace Berry?
Reid is confident that general manager Brett Veach will pour time into the waiver wire in search of candidates.
“Brett’s keeping his eyes open for [other safeties] right now. That’s what he does,” Reid said. “He’s always on top of that. We’re just kind of seeing the different options there.”
In-team options include Eric Murray, who filled in for Berry to finish the game. Daniel Sorensen, who plays multiple roles for the Chiefs, can also help man the position.
Free agent options include Jairus Byrd and Rashad Johnson. The latter had a good career with the Arizona Cardinals. But Johnson played poorly with Tennessee in 2016.
Byrd was one of the league’s top safeties with the Buffalo Bills from 2009-13. But he was often injured after signing a huge contract with the New Orleans Saints.
Chiefs Odds following Berry Injury
As Sports Illustrated points out, nobody the Chiefs pick up is going to fill the production and leadership of Berry.
Not only can he match up with an elite talent like Gronkowski, but he can also provide direction in the locker room too.
That said, Kansas City will take a hit in the odds department in future games. Below you can see their odds of winning the 2017/18 Super Bowl, AFC title, and AFC West:
- Chiefs odds to win Super Bowl = +1600
- Chiefs odds to win AFC Championship = +800
- Chiefs odds to win AFC West = +170
Kansas City still has solid odds to win without Berry. And they have talent, including Johnson, shutdown corner Marcus Peters, receiver Tyreke Hill, and rookie running back Kareem Hunt.
But they’ll definitely have a tougher road from here on without Berry in the lineup.