Safety Eric Berry battled every day, 'blessed' to be back with C - KCTV5

Safety Eric Berry battled every day, 'blessed' to be back with Chiefs

Posted: Updated:
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) participates in a drill at NFL football training camp Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in St. Joseph, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) participates in a drill at NFL football training camp Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in St. Joseph, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
During an afternoon news conference, he said he feels blessed and overwhelmed. He thanked his supporters. During an afternoon news conference, he said he feels blessed and overwhelmed. He thanked his supporters.
ST. JOSEPH, MO (KCTV/AP) -

Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry returned to the Kansas City Chiefs' practice field Wednesday, just eight months after a cancer diagnosis threatened to derail his career.

During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Berry said battling cancer and enduring chemotherapy was "a whole different monster," and some days he feared that he wouldn't wake up.

"It was a battle every day. It was to the point to where I had to set goals to just get out of bed," he said. "I was trying to push myself to the limit but I couldn't push myself how I wanted to be."

But Berry said he tried to have a positive attitude and energy. He kept working out and some days his goal was just five push ups.

"Coming from five push ups to being out on the field with my teammates," Berry said. "I've come a long way."

Wednesday morning, Berry walked down the long hill from the locker room to the practice fields at Missouri Western State University, wearing his familiar No. 29 and with his helmet in hand. He stretched with rookies and select veterans, then joined them when the workout began.

"He looked pretty good out here with the work that he had," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.

During the news conference, Berry said he feels blessed and overwhelmed. He thanked his supporters.

"There are so many people I want to thank," he said. "I'm so excited to be here."

Berry was flanked by his parents, James and Carol Berry. His mother dabbed at tears at times while beaming at other times. Berry said his parents support made all the difference in his recovery.

"Between my mom and dad being in the trenches with me day in and day out, just making sure I had everything I needed," he said. "Without them, I don't know how I would have pushed through."

They shrugged it off.

"Everything that we did was for Eric. It was no longer about us or about anyone else. It was strictly about him," James Berry said. "We just took it head on and said, 'We were gonna be there.'"

The news of Berry's return was greeted with joy from his fellow players.

"What a blessing to hear Eric Berry is back playing! Great thing for him and us players to have him back out on the field in the NFL," Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson wrote on Twitter.

The Oakland Raiders tweeted, "Great news. We're looking forward to seeing you back out there on the field."

Berry passed a battery of tests before he was cleared to practice late Tuesday, but it remains unclear when he will be a full participant in practice. Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said Berry will be monitored constantly, especially during the early portion of camp.

Veterans report Friday, and the first full-squad workout is Saturday.

"He did a good bit of practice today ... and at the end he felt pretty good," Burkholder said. "Right now, we're very optimistic that everything is headed in the right direction."

The three-time Pro Bowl pick was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in December, shortly after a mass was discovered in his chest following a game against Oakland. Berry said he is so grateful that the Chiefs training staff listened carefully and didn't sweep his concerns or symptoms under the rug.

Berry began the first of six rounds of chemotherapy on Dec. 10 at Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute near his home in Atlanta, and completed the final round of treatment on May 13.

Between each treatment, Berry was able to squeeze in 10 to 12 workouts, Burkholder said.

"Every time I would work out, I was crying after the work out," Berry said.

He even chose to have the chemotherapy delivered intravenously rather than through a PICC line, which would have severely limited his amount of physical activity.

"That's been his attitude — 'I'm going to work out during this. I'm going to start the first game.' That's his attitude," Reid said, "and that's what drove him through this. There were some tough days for him, this wasn't a breeze, but that's what motivated him."

He also drew inspiration from Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts and the late ESPN great Stuart Scott.

On June 22, Berry had a follow-up PET scan that showed he was cancer-free.

The Chiefs had just finished their mandatory minicamp, so Berry headed to Florida, where he trained with teammates Travis Kelce, Justin Houston and others. Then last week, he headed back to Kansas City for another round of testing to make sure he was in football condition.

"He sailed through every test we gave him," Burkholder said with a grin. "His doctors — I'll speak for them — they were very pleased with his numbers."

While the Chiefs are optimistic Berry will be ready for the opener Sept. 13 in Houston, his rapid return would not be without precedent. Reid said they looked at case studies involving other professional athletes, such as Mario Lemieux, in deciding how to proceed.

The Hall of Fame hockey player was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1993, went through a similar course of treatment and returned to finish his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"One of the things Eric and I talked about was just being honest with us about how you're feeling out here," Reid said, "and sometimes that's hard for a player to do, especially with his makeup. He's been great with that up to this point and I think that will continue through."

Still Berry's cancer scare has given him a new mantra.

"Fear nothing, attack everything," he said. "Just because it's not a cloudy day doesn't mean the sun is not shining. Hopefully that overcast will get out of the way."

Copyright 2015 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly
KCTV 5 News

Online Public File:
KCTV  KSMO

Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2018, KCTV; Kansas City, MO. (A Meredith Corporation Station) . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.