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Chiefs Family Rallies Behind Eric Berry

In a time of great need, the Chiefs organization rallies behind one of its own

Sometimes life has a definitive way of popping in and showing all of us what truly matters.

That was never more evident than on Monday, when the Chiefs announced defensive back Eric Berry, one of the unquestioned leaders of this team on and off the field, has a medical condition that will end his season.

At that point, football became a secondary responsibility for the coaches, players and staff at One Arrowhead Drive. Supporting one of their own in a time of need became the sole focus of everyone involved with the Chiefs organization.

Chiefs CEO and Chairman Clark Hunt, who flew to Kansas City from his Dallas home to attend the Monday afternoon press conference to show support for Berry, sat with president Mark Donovan and general manager John Dorsey while head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder and coach Andy Reid explained what had transpired over the days prior.


Photo courtesy Nick Jacobs

The Chiefs front office showed humble solidarity, which is just one small way the Chiefs have and will continue to support Berry throughout this next phase of his life. 

Berry had felt some discomfort in his chest last Thursday during the Chiefs' game against the Oakland Raiders, and defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas pointed Berry towards the training staff when he learned of the issue.

Burkholder explained what happened after that.

"On Friday afternoon when we rejoined [at the training complex] for treatment and rehab, [Berry] was still having some discomfort in his chest and it just didn't quite add up as an orthopedic injury so we did an X-ray," Burkholder said. "That was negative and Dr. Barnthouse, with his experience said, 'You know, we need to get an MRI on this.'

"We had an MRI Friday afternoon and Friday evening, when we got the results and our physicians and radiology people at The University of Kansas Hospital read the MRI, they discovered that he had a mass in his chest."

Burkholder continued.


"On Saturday, we did further testing including CT scans, some blood work and a PET scan. At that point, coach (Reid), myself and our team of physicians met with (Berry), and right now, we don't have a definitive diagnosis, but the leading consideration of what he has right now is lymphoma.

"The next step in the process is to finish some testing."

Burkholder praised the work done by all of those involved in helping get Berry and his family the information needed as soon as possible.

"I would be remiss if I didn't tell you this weekend that our medical staff and The University of Kansas Hospital worked tirelessly to get to the point that we're at today," Burkholder said. "I would like to thank Dr. Barnthouse, Dr. Monaco, Dr. Schroeppel, Dr. Nelson and in particular the radiology department at KU who worked tirelessly to get to this."

That support system made up of doctors, nurses and staff expedited a process that will allow Berry to get the help he needs right away.

Berry will now go to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, not far from his hometown of Fairburn, to be closer to his family as he undergoes further tests and plans for the next step in this process with Dr. Christopher Flowers, a specialist in lymphoma at Emory.

After the announcement, support poured in from all across the NFL on twitter.

Sending positive energy to Eric Berry. Wishing healing and strength for him. — Christopher Long (@JOEL9ONE) November 24, 2014

Much respect for big bro...prolly one of the realest I seen do it...true professional and a true… — Knile0rNever (@BoobieKnile_Era) November 25, 2014

Just like that, football was diminished back to its most basic form: a game. Life and the things that truly matter are brought right back to the forefront for everyone.

When a word like lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, is mentioned, most people feel some kind of a connection to such struggles from experiences in their own lives with family or friends, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained how that connects to the family atmosphere within the Chiefs organization.  

"We are really just a microcosm life," Reid explained. "That's really what we are; in the building here, it's a family. So we have this support, people step up and they work through the emotional part of it and support each other and most of all they support Eric.

"You put the Oakland Raiders to the side for this period here, and you put Denver aside. That's the way the players approached it today and we will move on because that's how life goes.

"But we will move on with Eric's spirit in hand."

Before he left for Atlanta, Berry spoke to his teammates.  

"He first met with the players committee," Reid said. "There were some guys who were shaken up, understandably so. These guys love him. He's a big part of this football team, not only as a player, but also as a person and leader.

"I think with his strength and being able to talk to the players, they felt a comfort in that."

Reid continued.

"He was upbeat and very positive," Reid said. "He was awesome this morning. He's not one that likes to do a lot of talking but he felt like the team needed to hear it from him that he's okay and that he's going to get after this thing and get it fixed."

As important as it was to Berry to address his teammates, Reid understands it was more important for Berry to know he has the support of everyone in the building.

a few special moments in the career of Eric Berry.

"He had an opportunity to feel their love and support, which I think is crucial in this," Reid explained. "When you get into these situations you honker down and you battle for your life, that's what you do.

"You have to be in a certain frame of mind. You have to have a certain support system to back you up and Eric's got that, not only with family but also with the Chiefs."

After making the trip solely to show his support, Hunt took some time to talk about Berry.

"When you have somebody who has been with you for a number of years and I've had a chance to get to know [Eric] personally, it does pull at the heartstrings a little bit more," Hunt explained. "Whether it's an employee in the front office or somebody on the football field, when they are going through a tough time like this, we want to be there to support him."

While Hunt said you can never be fully prepared to handle such life-changing moments, he believes there's a culture that can be created to help support one another within the organization through such times.   

"Well I don't think you're ever equipped necessarily to handle what life throws at you and certainly this was completely unexpected," Hunt said. "But I do think that we have a culture where we respect and support each other and really that is the most important thing in a time like this.

"I had a chance to speak with Eric earlier today and I just told him, 'My family is going to be thinking about you and praying for a speedy recovery.'"

Anyone who has ever been around Berry understands the genuineness, humility and respect he shows for everyone he comes into contact with, and it's a trait of his that will be brought back to him twofold as he attacks this next obstacle in life.

"We appreciate all that Clark (Hunt) has done for us and allowing us to support Eric the way we are," Reid said. "We know it's going to work out for him, he's a beast and right now he needs to be a beast."

Eric Berry's Statement

"I am truly thankful for all of the support from family, friends, coaches, teammates and the entire Chiefs kingdom. At first I was in shock with the diagnosis on Saturday and did not even want to miss a game, but I understand that right now I have to concentrate on a new opponent. I have great confidence in the doctors and the plan they are going to put in place for me to win this fight. I believe that I am in God's hands and I have great peace in that. I know my coaches and teammates will hold things down here the rest of the season and until I am back running out of the tunnel at Arrowhead. I am so thankful and appreciative of being a part of this franchise and playing in front of the best fans in the NFL. I will be back!"

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