ST. JOSEPH, Mo. —From the moment he arrived at training camp a day after the rest of the Chiefs, Eric Berry has tried to be the model teammate.
He apologized to his teammates for the tardy arrival in a team meeting. During his first camp practice session Saturday morning, Berry made a veteran move by pulling quarterback Matt Cassel from the middle of a mass brawl.
Berry then finished the practice by lugging not only his own equipment but that of two of his teammates off the field and up a hill toward the locker room.
Aside from the fact the Chiefs believe Berry can be a difference-maker from the safety position, his actions at camp illustrate the reasons the Chiefs drafted Berry. They want players who are about football and about team and Berry appears uncommon in both regards.
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"We did a lot of work on all these players and we drafted them for a reason," said coach Todd Haley, talking about the rookie class and refusing to be drawn into a specific discussion on Berry.
Berry, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick, agreed to contract terms Friday, but not in time to arrive at camp for the first practice. He moved right into the starting lineup Saturday at safety alongside Jon McGraw.
Berry appeared embarrassed by his late arrival to camp and bothered by the fact he missed a single practice. Thus the apology to his teammates.
"I told them that I'm here and I'm ready to do whatever to help this organization get to where it needs to be," Berry said. "(An on-time camp arrival) would have been a great statement to my teammates to show them how dedicated I am to the team.
"Yesterday was the first practice I missed in my whole life. It did hurt me so. But I'm excited to be here now and I'm ready to get to work and do whatever coach Haley asks of me."
Cornerback Brandon Flowers painted the picture of an increasingly edgy Berry as the start of camp neared last week.
"He kept texting us beforehand saying he wanted to be here on time," Flowers said. "He even apologized in the meetings yesterday for not making it on time."
Other than his maneuver in helping pull Cassel from the brawl, Berry's first practice was unremarkable. The Chiefs have expectations that will soon change and they indicated as much by making him the highest-paid safety in NFL history with a six-year contract worth a reported $60 million.
"You always have the preseason jitters and you always wonder 'What if this happens?' or 'What if that happens?' but I guess you could say I'm more anxious than nervous," Berry said. "I'm excited more than anything."
Trying to deflect much of that pressure, he added, "The biggest focus is on us coming together as a defense. No one person is going to save anything or do anything for a team. I just want to come here and play my part, play my role and make sure I'm doing everything in my power to help my teammates. I think we're on the right track to doing some good things."
Haley appeared intent on trying to help Berry by refusing to separate him from the rest of the rookie pack. That will be increasingly difficult for Haley to do.
Berry is the only rookie starter, at least for now. And while the Chiefs have expectations for other rookies — such as receiver Dexter McCluster, defensive back Javier Arenas and tight end Tony Moeaki — they're asking even more from their first-round draft pick.
"This is a very prideful group of young guys," Haley said. "That's why we're all as excited as you can be. It's a long road for those guys. They have so much to deal with and you see it every year. It's hard for rookies to contribute a bunch early in general at any position.
"I'm just happy to have everybody here. We've got a couple of guys (conditioning) but we've got a majority of the guys working together building on what we've done over the last 15 months or so. That's exciting for me."