KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Eric Berry insists he left the business side of professional football in the parking lot when the All-Pro safety walked through the doors of the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice facility.
That stuff had consumed enough time the past six months.
“Everybody in this building knows how I am about business. I handle my business like a professional,” Berry said, and “aside from that I’m going to give everything I’ve got every snap.
“Regards to what happened in the offseason, that’s the offseason.”
The Chiefs made Berry their franchise player after his stirring comeback from cancer, then began negotiations on a long-term deal. But the sides were never close to an agreement by the July 15 deadline, and Berry refused to sign his franchise tender until this past weekend.
That meant he could skip training camp without being fined.
“It was a different situation. I’ve never been a part of that,” Berry said, “but at the end of the day I know that my teammates and my coaches, that we are all in it together.”
Now with his name on a one-year, $10.806 million contract, Berry can redirect his attention toward getting ready for the regular season.
He is not expected to play in the Chiefs’ preseason finale Thursday night against Green Bay, so his first game action since Kansas City was eliminated by New England in the playoffs will come Sept. 11 against San Diego.
Not that the seventh-year pro needs much time to get up to speed.
Berry played in every game last season, less than a year after he was diagnosed with cancer, and proved to be the emotional leader of the Kansas City defense. He made 55 tackles, had a pair of interceptions and was rewarded for his play with his fourth Pro Bowl appearance.
“We all like to think practice is important, but you have a really unique player,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “He’s very talented. He’s a guy that takes great pride in the way he conditions. So there’s none of that you’re going through.
“He’s always been a guy that was passionate, loved football and then to be in the position he was two years ago,” Sutton said, “I just think he’s going to be excited to get back out there.”
The close-knit Chiefs sure sound excited to have him back.
Alex Smith was one of the first players to see Berry when he walked through the door, the quarterback welcoming him with open arms. Berry also had a sit-down meeting with coach Andy Reid where they discussed just about everything but football.
Berry said he watched the Chiefs’ first three preseason games and took down notes, and now the challenge is to put all of them into practice in less than two weeks.
“I had a lot of questions, just because some things tend to change in camp,” he said. “They cleared that up for me and just going through the walk-through this morning, seems like everything is ready to go.”
That’s welcome news to a Chiefs defense that has been uneven in the preseason.
The Chiefs struggled against the run in games against the Seahawks and Rams, where Berry’s ability to plug holes at the line of scrimmage would have come in handy. They fared better against the Bears over the weekend, an encouraging sign once Berry is back in the mix.
“We just have to hope that it works the way we think it can,” Sutton said. “There may be some bumps in the road, but I’m pretty confident that he can do this. I think he’ll do a great job.”
NOTES: CB Kenneth Acker spoke for the first time since joining the Chiefs in a weekend trade from San Francisco. “I don’t know much about the city,” he said, “but I know this is a pretty good team. I feel like I bring a lot.” … Special teams coach Dave Toub continued to praise WR Tyreek Hill, who should figure prominently in the return game. “He’s getting closer,” Toub said. “He really does a good job when he hits the edge. You can see that he changes everybody’s angles when he hits that corner. It’s just a matter of time before we get him a really big one.”