Eric Berry and the Chiefs: Inspiration and unfulfilled potential

Chiefs release Berry after injury-plagued 2018 campaign (1:52)

Louis Riddick and Booger McFarland examine the fallout from the Chiefs' move to release safety Eric Berry. (1:52)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The great Eric Berry moments during his now-finished career at safety with the Kansas City Chiefs were many.

Everybody has a favorite.

His triumphant return from cancer in 2015. How he smothered Rob Gronkowski in the 2017 opener against the Patriots. His interception return of an Atlanta two-point conversion attempt to give the Chiefs a one-point win in 2016. His sideline words of wisdom for Marcus Peters in a 2016 game against the Panthers after his teammate drew a penalty for inexplicably kicking the ball into the stands in the fourth quarter of a tie game.

There are plenty of reasons to remember Berry in a positive way despite the fact he's given the Chiefs very little from a tangible standpoint since that 2017 opener against the Patriots. In fact, the six-year, $78 million contract Berry signed two years ago turned into one of the worst in team history.

Berry, who joined the Chiefs in 2010 as their first-round draft pick, was with Kansas City for nine years. He missed a substantial portion of four seasons, leaving his career as mystifying as that of any great football player ever to come through Kansas City: What could Berry have accomplished had he played those other four seasons, had he not had to overcome a torn ACL, cancer, a ruptured Achilles tendon and last season's mysterious heel ailment?

It's safe to say he'd have many more great moments. Maybe the Chiefs, with Berry in their lineup, would have been able to hold onto an 18-point halftime lead against the Titans in the 2017 playoffs. Perhaps a healthy Berry could have checked Gronkowski and the Patriots on the last of New England's three third-down overtime completions in last season's AFC Championship Game.

We'll never know, but it's natural to wonder. Berry acknowledged last summer at training camp he sometimes thinks about what he could have accomplished had almost half of his career not been spent rehabbing from injury or receiving treatment for illness.

The Chiefs released Berry on Wednesday, two days after agreeing to contract terms with safety Tyrann Mathieu. Berry becomes the latest in a line of Chiefs greats to be released in recent years, following Jamaal Charles, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston.

It feels different this time. The Chiefs had gone about as far as they could with those players, and in most cases it seemed time to move on.

With Berry, the Chiefs hadn't gone far enough.

They've rarely had a player like him. On the field, Berry had the knack for making a big play at the right time. In the locker room, he was the voice all of his teammates listened to.

Longtime teammate Jeff Allen felt moved to post this to his Twitter account after word of Berry's release became public.

Boiling down Berry's Chiefs career to one game, it would have been that 2017 game against the Patriots. Berry was brilliant that night in coverage against Gronkowski and a key reason the Chiefs upset the defending Super Bowl champions.

But the final images of Berry that night came in the fourth quarter, when he was sitting on the field upright with his legs outstretched in the classic torn Achilles tendon pose. He was carted off the field and that was that, the productive portion of his Chiefs career finished.

That game was like the rest of Berry's time in Kansas City. There was much to like when he was in the lineup, but too often he wasn't.