Eric Berry returns to starting lineup in Chiefs’ base defense

Sept. 25, 2015; Kansas City, MO: Chiefs safety Eric Berry during pregame introductions against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs currently list free safety Eric Berry second on the depth chart behind Husain Abdullah.

But the designation doesn’t matter because it was Berry who started in Week 2 and saw action on 71 of 73 total defensive snaps against the Denver Broncos.

So is that a good sign Berry has officially returned to the starting lineup in the team’s 3-4 base defense after defeating Hodgkin lymphoma?

Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton left little doubt during his Friday media session.

“Yeah, I’d say so,” Sutton said. “I think he pretty much did that the other night.”

The Chiefs defense, of course, utilizes numerous personnel packages, including a dime grouping with Berry, Abdullah and strong safety Ron Parker on the field at the same time with three cornerbacks.

Each sub-package will depend on what the opposing offenses brings out on the field, but Berry has been a large part of the defense.

“We roll so many people through there,” Sutton said, “half the time I don’t even think about who’s there. A lot of times it matters what the offense runs out with, which group’s going out first. But yeah, he’s back, he’s playing all of the time and he’s done a great job.”

The 27-year-old Berry spoke to the media Thursday and said he felt he was back to full strength.

“Yes, as far as physically, yes,” Berry said. “I can always grow physically, but much more mentally as well and I think that’s going to come along with the experience and stuff like that. Just being out there with my teammates, and gaining that chemistry so we all can be on the same page. Everything can move a lot faster that way.”

Sutton agreed that Berry has returned to form, which obviously is a good thing for the defense when considering the sixth-year pro is a former first-team All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl selection.

And much has to do with Berry gaining practice repetitions since he returned to football.

Berry missed time during the 2014 training camp with a heel injury and battled a high-ankle sprain during the first half of the season. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in late November and finished the season on the non-football injury list.

“This is the first stretch of a long period where he’s been practicing,” Sutton said. “He’s practiced more this year, more than he ever did last year if you took camp and the whole season. I think that’s what allows you to get back in it.

“He obviously was going through another thing that you put on top of that, but I think from a football standpoint, he’s going. He feels good, I think when you talk to him he sees things better now and he’s more comfortable there. And I think it’s just going to keep getting better and better for him from a comfort standpoint. But I don’t really see a lot different from him.”

Berry, who totaled four tackles in Week 2, has six tackles through two games and is tied for sixth-most on the team with defensive end Allen Bailey.


Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.