Last season, Berry tied his career high with four interceptions and returned two of them for touchdowns to tie for the NFL lead in that category. He also earned the fifth Pro Bowl selection of his career.
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Berry was sooner or later bound to get caught in the act. His list of community service was long enough that he was the Chiefs’ nominee in 2015 for NFL Man of the Year. He served as an inspiration for countless people when he returned to play for the Chiefs in 2015 after a bout with lymphoma.
Poe has been a workhorse for the Chiefs. He has missed only two games in his career because of injury. He also has played a lot of snaps for a defensive lineman, but the Chiefs usually found him too valuable in both running and passing situations to provide him much relief.
“You’re not going to replace Eric Berry with another Eric Berry. That’s not what happens,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who confirmed the team’s initial fears in a conference call Friday. “But the guys know that Eric would be disappointed if they left off the accelerator at all. I think we’ll be OK there.”
But Berry had an increased presence around their practice facility last week and addressed the Chiefs before their game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. Some players said Berry was a factor in the 26-15 win that snapped the Chiefs’ four-game losing streak and set up next Saturday night’s battle for first place in the AFC West against the Los Angeles Chargers.
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Berry was hurt while covering Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on a passing route. He hobbled at the end of the play and promptly sat on the turf, where the team’s training staff began examining him. Berry did not appear to be in obvious discomfort, but it took a cart to cheap jerseys remove him from the field.
To gain some insight into how those players have turned out, I went back through the past 20 years of drafts and sorted out players by the position they were expected to play when they were drafted. To the best of my ability, I sifted through the player pool to include 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers as one group of edge-rushers while identifying other linebackers as cover/interior linebackers.
Parker said Berry was at the practice facility after hours on Wednesday, working with some of the defensive backs on man-to-man techniques that had failed the Chiefs much of the season.
Berry told the Chiefs before the game to take advantage of the moment. Their season goals were slipping away because of their four-game losing streak. They had fallen to 6-6 and into a tie with both the Raiders and the Chargers for first place in the division.
Berry, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, is the Chiefs’ franchise player. The sides couldn’t come to an agreement on terms on a multiyear contract before the July 15 deadline, leaving Berry no option but to sign the Chiefs’ obligatory one-year offer if he was going to play this season.
Berry, 28, had perhaps his best NFL season. He returned an interception for a touchdown to spark a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Carolina Panthers in November and returned one for a touchdown and another for two points to lead the Chiefs to a win over the Atlanta Falcons in December.