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Chiefs Safety Eric Berry: "Nothing Moves Without Ron Parker"

Posted Sep 30, 2016

One of the most valuable members of the Chiefs defense isn’t short on respect from his peers

When speaking with those inside the Kansas City Chiefs locker room, there’s little doubt as to the level of respect thrown in the direction of veteran safety Ron Parker, who isn’t the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year like cornerback Marcus Peters, or the reigning Comeback Player of the Year like safety Eric Berry, but both know what he means to that defense.

“I feel like nothing moves without Ron,” Berry explained on Thursday.

With the season-ending knee injury to starting nickelback Phillip Gaines in Week 3 of last season against the Green Bay Packers, Parker was asked to slide from his safety position down to the nickel cornerback position, which he did without blinking an eye.

“We wouldn't have been able to do anything back there if it wasn't for him holding down the nickel spot,” Berry added.

Showing off a versatility that many around the league simply couldn’t match, Parker held that spot and helped lead a Chiefs passing defense to rank among the top 10 in the league—allowing just 231 yards passing per game last year, and also ranking No. 2 in allowing just 57.5 percent of passes to be completed against them.

It was Parker and the defense that helped lead the Chiefs through their franchise-best 10-game winning streak last season, allowing just 12.8 points per game over that historic span.

During his time with the Chiefs, which began after being picked up on waivers from the Seattle Seahawks prior to the 2013 season, Parker has played safety, cornerback and nickel, providing a value that’s allowed defensive coordinator Bob Sutton to maintain a defense that’s given up the second-fewest amount of points in the NFL since 2014.

In going a step further, there isn’t a player who has played more snaps for the Chiefs defense over that span than Parker, who has racked up 184 tackles, six sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 28 passes defensed during that time.

He’s also the franchise leader in sacks by a defensive back with seven.

“To play safety, you've got to be kind of like an inside backer,” veteran Derrick Johnson explained. “You've got to be aggressive enough to play the run, but also athletic enough to play the pass. ‘Park’ (Ron Parker) has kind of got it all. He's a guy that can run with receivers and come up and lay the boom on some people.

“He may not get a lot of interceptions, but he knocks the ball down a lot in key situations.”

Last week, in a dominant defensive performance against the Jets, Parker finished the game with three tackles and two passes defensed, but there were plenty of things he did well that go beyond the box score.

“[Parker] made three or four really big plays in the game that maybe went unnoticed,” Sutton explained. “He had some big tackles on crossing routes. Those plays don’t always have a stat for them, but when you’re really watching the course of the game and studying it afterwards, you realize some of those are really big plays.”

Midway through the fourth quarter against the Jets, Brandon Marshall, the All-Pro receiver, caught a pass across the middle and made a quick move in the open field and looked to have an opportunity to make a 6 or 7-yard gain, or maybe even much more than that.

Then Parker came flying downhill and made a fantastic open-field tackle on one of the NFL’s best playmakers.

Parker didn’t have an easy path to find his way into those key situations. He had to overcome a lot, which gives him a pedigree and a foundation that others can respect.

After entering the league as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks out of Newberry College in 2011, Parker was released eight times by three different teams over the next two years before being picked up by the Chiefs.

There were obstacles.

It’s a story of overcoming the odds, and it’s one that Berry made sure this year’s rookies understood when he spoke with them about it this week.

“I think they already respected [Parker] just because of the plays he makes and what he does on the field,” Berry explained. “But I don’t think they knew him prior to being here and being out there as a starter. They found out he really got it out of the mud—like he really grinded to get to this position and I think anybody can always respect that.”

It was important to Berry that he shared Parker’s story with the young players because Parker isn’t the kind of player to do it himself. He leads by example and doesn’t ever make it about himself.

With Peters missing practice this week because of the flu and additional snaps being handed out to rookies D.J. White and Eric Murray, who is mixing in at safety as well, Berry wanted to make sure those guys knew how Parker made his name.

“[Parker] would get on the field once or twice during the game (in his first year in 2013), but he always came up and made plays,” Berry told them. “He always seemed to knock the ball out and end up with the ball. That’s just what he did. He made plays.

“I was trying to explain to the young guys, you got to look at Ron. He took advantage of his opportunities.”

Parker played a total of 92 snaps for the Chiefs defense in 2013, coming away with a game-winning strip-sack of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo late in the fourth quarter of the 17-16 Chiefs win in Week 2 of that season, which was just a couple of weeks after he had been released for the eighth time in his career.

Parker added another two interceptions, three passes defensed and two more fumble recoveries in limited action that year.

One guy who knows more than most the path Parker has taken to get here is defensive lineman Jaye Howard, who was also claimed by the Chiefs from the Seattle Seahawks back in 2013 as part of the “Magnificent Seven,” who consisted of the seven waiver-wire claims that year.

Howard was a fourth-round pick of the Seahawks out of Florida in 2012 and played in just two games as a rookie before being released and subsequently claimed by the Chiefs.

“That guy is special,” Howard explained of Parker. “When we were in Seattle, I saw him climb up the ranks. He deserves every minute of his snaps right now that he's getting. It makes you at ease knowing that he's back there—definitely with him and E.B. (Eric Berry).”

Howard and Parker were both told at one point they didn’t have a place to play, but they not only found a home in Kansas City—they also each earned contract extensions while they’ve been here.

“We came in here with that attitude that we were just going to show people that we could play, and it worked out for us,” Howard added. “We're blessed and fortunate enough that it worked out and Kansas City took us in.”

There might not be a bigger advocate for Parker around the facility than Sutton, who enjoys the comfort of knowing that with any injury to the defensive backfield, Parker has the ability to step in and make things easier.

“He’s one of the guys that I have complete confidence and trust in,” Sutton explained. “He’s consistent and you know what you’re going to get from him. He does whatever you ask him to do without blinking. He goes in, studies and works hard at it. To me, he’s the ultimate team player.”

While Parker doesn’t have the Pro Bowl accolades of some of his teammates, there’s no questioning his value to this team or what he means to those guys in the locker room.

“I don't know if everybody else gives him the credit, but we do.” Johnson explained, “and the best part about it is that I don't think he gets caught up in all that. He's just like, ‘I'm going to do my part.’

“And he's doing his part—helping us out big time. He's one of our impact players and leaders.”

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