FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Even in injury, safety Eric Berry wouldn't relinquish his duties.
He couldn't finish the game for the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night against the New England Patriots; a torn Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter made sure of that. But in the locker room after the Chiefs' 42-27 win, Berry was in his usual place, with teammates and coaches gathered around and taking in his words.
Playing the role of spiritual leader is all Berry can do for the Chiefs for the rest of 2017. His injury will end his season.
The Chiefs will miss Berry on the field. His steady, every-down presence and his playmaking ability, well-known even to fans who might be only casual fans of the Chiefs, will be tough to replace.
The Chiefs will try with Daniel Sorensen, whose role has grown from special-teams player as an undrafted rookie in 2014 to key contributor in many of their defensive rotations, and Eric Murray, a fourth-round draft pick last season who played cornerback in college. The Chiefs without Berry have only three safeties, including starter Ron Parker, so they will be looking for veteran help soon.
"You know you're not going to replace Eric Berry with another Eric Berry," coach Andy Reid said. "That's not what happens. We've obviously got some guys here between Murray and Sorensen that we know can play and we feel comfortable with. But the Eric Berrys only come around every once in a while. He's a heck of a player."
Berry is also one of Kansas City's locker room leaders. His is the voice that all of his teammates listen to. That has been the case since Berry returned to the Chiefs in 2015 after his successful battle with Hodgkin lymphoma. Berry famously put himself through grueling physical workouts during his chemotherapy treatments so he could return to play for the Chiefs sooner than he otherwise might.
Several Chiefs players went to Berry's home in the Atlanta area to work out with him during his treatments, tight end Travis Kelce among them.
"I'm on a bit of a low right now because my guy is down," Kelce said. "I love him to death. He's our fearless leader and to see him go down in the first game breaks your heart."
Berry said after returning from his cancer treatment that among the things he missed the most during his absence was being in the locker room and around his teammates. That makes it unlikely he'll go through his newest rehab from afar.
"Eric is not going to allow that to happen," Reid said. "He broke the team down right after [the Patriots game]. And I told him that he could get started on his coaching career now. So if it works out where he can't play, then we will get him right in there and he can help out. He will still be a big part.
"He had an opportunity to talk to the team ... after the game. I know he'd be very disappointed if anybody hung their head or let that be an issue. I thought the guys handled it very well even after he got hurt. I felt like after some of these injuries that we've had like that, there was a drop-off. [But] our guys were able to muster it up and keep the emotional football part of it in focus. Most of all, the guys know Eric would be disappointed if we let off the accelerator at all."