A new six-year, $78 million contract certainly made it easier for safety Eric Berry staying in Kansas City, but the All-Pro says his reasons for re-signing with the Chiefs had little to do with money.
“You can try to put a price tag on different things, but you can’t account for chemistry,” Berry said during a press conference Wednesday, flanked by his parents James and Carol Berry at the Hank Stram Theater inside the team’s training complex.
Berry arrived in Kansas City in 2010, the fifth pick in the NFL draft. He quickly emerged as a fan favorite for his fierce run defense and playmaking abilities.
The relationship between Berry and Kansas City – the organization, the community and the fan base – forever changed in December 2014 with his diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma.
Berry’s journey from his battle against cancer bound the player and the team together in a new way.
On Christmas night against before the team’s final regular season home game, Berry took a knee in the end zone visualizing the game ahead. Just two years earlier, Berry spent Christmas in the emergency room.
“I just love being here,” Berry said. “I think the fact that I was able to come back from what I came back from – I know a lot of people try to put a lot of emphasis on me – but you don’t do that without great support and just people supporting you and pushing you in the right direction, and I’m just truly thankful for that.”
The Chiefs and Berry could not come to an agreement on extension a year ago, leading to the Pro Bowl safety to play last season under the franchise tag.
Berry hesitated a moment when asked if his cancer diagnosis played a role in negotiations with the team.
“Probably last year, but it wasn’t no big deal,” Berry said.
Berry’s mother Carol said she cried when her son called to tell her he agreed to the new contract. She said the last time they travelled to Kansas City for a non-football visit was to bring their son back to Atlanta for cancer treatment.
“I can’t even put it into words how proud I am and thankful that it happened with a team, an organization and a city like Kansas City,” Carol Berry said. “Because I don’t think we would have gotten through it – we had a lot of support and emotional support.”
His father said Kansas City is where his son wants to be.
“From the beginning, he always talked about just being in one place for his career, James Berry said. “This actually happened for him, and I can see that’s he happy and satisfied.”
Berry earned approximately $60 million through his first seven NFL seasons. His new contract includes a $20 million signing bonus and $38.7 million in guaranteed money.
The security of the guaranteed money long-term deal allows Berry to invest in issues close to his heart. His hometown of Fairburn, Georgia stands as a primary focus. He wants to focus on educational and athletic programs allowing kids to pursue their interests both in the classroom and on the field.
“I just want to give the kids that outlet to be able to express themselves,” Berry said. “When they don’t the opportunity to do that, they resort to primitive actions or things that they see on TV.”
Berry also wants to share the lessons learned in his life. He pointed to examples of young people earning college scholarships but lacking the preparation to succeed in college.
“That’s my main goal,” Berry said. “Getting the youth ready to do what they need to do.”
On the football field, Berry has just one goal: bringing a Super Bowl championship to Kansas City. He points to experience as the missing ingredient for postseason success.
“Progress has been made,” Berry said, citing improvement from the playoff loss in New England a year ago to earning the No. 2 seed this past season. “But it’s about making that big jump that’s going to get us over the hump.”
As Berry finished his press conference, he posed for pictures with his family and members of the Chiefs organization. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton approached Berry to shake his hand and congratulate him on the new contract.
“Now we get to work,” Sutton said. Berry laughed with a big smile on his face.