One year ago, the Chiefs celebrated the return of veteran safety Eric Berry after his recovery from cancer. But he was conspicuously absent from the annual Chiefs Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday afternoon.
Berry hasn’t yet signed a contract, but he is set to earn $10.8 million this season, and multiple reports say he’ll return to the Chiefs after Saturday’s pre-season game in Chicago.
KCUR asked Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt prior to the luncheon about Berry’s possible return. “I can’t confirm the report, but we do expect Eric (Berry) to show up soon,” said Hunt. “We’re looking forward to having him back with the team.”
Berry wasn’t able to reach a long-term agreement with the Chiefs before the July 15 deadline, as a result he’ll be a free agent after this season.
“We were disappointed to not being able to reach a long-term contract with Eric," Hunt said at training camp when asked about the stalemate in contract negotiations. "He’s somebody we think very highly of. He’s been a great player on the field and does so much in the community. He’s a team leader.”
Except for a few youth clinics in the area, Berry was seldom seen around Kansas City this summer. Without a contract, Berry technically had no obligation to participate in the Chiefs’ off-season workouts — and he didn’t.
For the same reason, Berry didn’t report to training camp at Missouri Western in St. Joseph when the rest of the veteran players reported in late July.
Going forward, Berry’s options are simple: Either sign the one-year deal on the club’s terms or walk away from the millions of dollars he’s scheduled to earn this season. Apparently, Berry has stayed away from any team activity so far in an attempt to make a statement to the front office about his dissatisfaction at the failure to reach a long-term deal.
Meanwhile at the luncheon Friday, the crowd stood to applaud Berry’s courageous return from lymphoma a year earlier.
“We’re missing a couple guys because of injury or contracts or whatever, but the guys who were here beared (sic) down,” said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.
Other marquis names who missed drills at training camp were linebacker Justin Houston, running back Jamaal Charles and defensive lineman Tamba Hali. All of their absences were injury-related. But all of them still showed up at the annual luncheon, the Chiefs’ biggest event leading up to the regular season.
All except Eric Berry.
Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter for KCUR 89.3.