The chances of safety Eric Berry sitting out the 2016 season rather than playing for the Kansas City Chiefs seem slim. Berry has overcome too much, is playing too well, enjoys playing football too much and has too much to gain a year from now to think that not signing his one-year contract offer worth about $10.8 million is a realistic option.
But until Berry puts pen to paper, there remains a chance the Chiefs have to do without him this year. That's a grim thought for the franchise.
If Berry isn't with the Chiefs for their Sept. 11 season-opener against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City could be without three of its top defensive players from last season. Cornerback Sean Smith departed in free agency to the Oakland Raiders and linebacker Justin Houston probably won't be fully recovered after his offseason knee surgery.
The Chiefs have other issues with top defensive players as well. Linebacker Tamba Hali missed all of offseason practice because of his own knee surgery, though he could be ready for the start of training camp next week. Another linebacker, Derrick Johnson, will turn 34 in November. While he's shown no signs of decline, his age means he'll need to be monitored.
If Berry doesn't play, the Chiefs would be without three of their top four safeties from last season, with only Ron Parker available from that group. That might not be such a bad thing if the Chiefs had prepared for this contingency, but they obviously didn't -- their only significant addition at safety is a veteran who didn't play last season in Stevie Brown. They also are converting Jamell Fleming and Marcus Cooper from cornerback to safety.
The Chiefs evidently expect Berry to play. There are plenty of reasons for him to. After all, he beat cancer last year and returned with one of his best NFL seasons. By having another big season this year, Berry would put himself in line for the lucrative long-term contract he didn't get this year, whether that deal is with the Chiefs or another club.
Certainly, there's pain on Berry's side if he sits out the season. But he wouldn't be the only one feeling it.