Chiefs' Eric Berry returns, loves football too much to sit out

The Kansas City Chiefs were never concerned the regular season would be upon them and safety Eric Berry wouldn’t be a part of things. Contract situations can be unpredictable and take some unexpected turns, but the Chiefs always knew when the season starts on Sept. 11 against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium, Berry would be in their lineup.

Football means too much to Berry to think otherwise. It was important to him early in his career, like in college when he helped tend to helmets and other gear in the equipment room at Tennessee. Not because he had to, because he wanted to.

It was certainly too important to him now. Berry last year put himself through grueling workouts through his chemotherapy treatments for his cancer, all so he wouldn’t have to miss any football.

He wasn’t going to miss any games over a long-term contract impasse. The Chiefs have been biding their time in his absence, using first veteran Daniel Sorensen and of late rookie Eric Murray in his spot.

All the while, coach Andy Reid talked about how valuable the practice snaps and game experience were to the two players and how it would help if the Chiefs ever needed them to play in a pinch.

For the Chiefs, it was always about when Berry would show up and never about if.

The time, Berry has determined, will come on Sunday, a day after the Chiefs play their third preseason game, against the Bears in Chicago. He will sign his one-year contract worth about $10.8 million and have enough time next week to practice twice and perhaps get a few snaps in next Thursday’s final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Arrowhead Stadium.

Then, it’s showtime. And the Chiefs’ defense could use the lift that the return of a four-time Pro Bowl safety could provide.

Their starters have allowed two touchdowns in three preseason possessions by the opposing starters. The third was a drive that ended only with an end zone interception by Marcus Peters.

Their run defense has been spotty. Their pass rush has been inconsistent. Berry, one of the Chiefs’ best run defenders, can help with that, at least.

Things would have been best if Berry had rejoined the Chiefs sooner, leaving him enough time to be at his best on Sept. 11. But patience won out here and in this case, late is far better than never.