Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry could have gone absolutely stir crazy.
Long, tedious days stretched into weeks and months as Berry rehabbed and recovered from knee surgery. He needed an outlet to help him through the depression and disappointment, not to mention the pain, of missing the 2011 season following an injury on the second play of the season opener.
So Berry picked up a pen and paper. He wrote three screenplays. He composed music. And he filled his notebook with nearly 200 poems.
When the 2012 season begins Sunday against his hometown Atlanta Falcons and Berry makes his first regular-season appearance since suffering the knee injury against Buffalo, his writing will have been as important to his recovery as any therapy.
“I really leaned on my poetry and my writing throughout the whole process,” he said. “You do a lot of sitting up by yourself a lot of looking at the ceiling. That’s what I did in my spare time between playing video games I wanted to get my thoughts on paper.”
That’s how he discovered the beauty of the moon. While injured, Berry, who played every defensive snap as a rookie during his Pro Bowl season of 2010, felt lost and in the dark when not part of a team. He wondered when the misery was going to end, when he saw a full moon.
“Even as a kid, the full moon always intrigued me,” he said. “I looked up at the full moon, contemplated it and wondered if it sees me, and knowing what I’m going through and knowing all my struggles.”
And he wrote an ode to the moon.
“I went through so many different stages ” he said of his rehab process. “I wrote the poem about the moon on one of my days when I was like, ‘Damn, when is it going to stop?’ I happened to look up at the moon, and it was a full moon in a time of darkness.
“In times of darkness, when things are going wrong, just like when night falls and you can’t see your way, the full moon always has light to guide your way. The moon borrows light from the sun. Everybody knows the sun is going to shine, right? But the moon is so special, it takes some of the light from the sun and gives it to people who can’t see in the dark.”
Berry, who majored in psychology at the University of Tennessee, has always considered himself something of a wordsmith.
“I always was the type who got my feelings on paper,” he said. “I love using metaphors. I’ve been the type of person who likes wordplay, just the simple things in literature like alliterations, synonyms, homophones, the way you can put stuff together is a beautiful thing.
“I can write about any thing. I can write about that plasma television there in the room anything that comes to mind, because that’s what I used to do in school, when I was 7, 8 years old. My music is the same as my poetry, to motivate people and keep them focused.”
His inspiration comes from everyday life.
“Mainly I like writing about life situations, stuff I’ve seen, situations people go through,” Berry said. “I like to write encouraging stuff for people. Sometimes it’s just happy thoughts.
“I do a lot of performing in front of my friends at home I just stand up and go off, and everyone in the house is listening to me do poems, and I just freestyle a poem off the top of my head. Sometimes they think it’s just a speech or something . I pick a subject, and it will be so random, out of the blue. Give me a subject and I take it from there.”
Berry realizes his affection for literature may run counter to the macho environment of a pro football team’s locker room.
“A lot of people don’t know how my brain works,” he said. “I see the bigger picture my teammates call me weird. Someone called me strange last week, and I take it as a compliment, just because, who wants to be normal? I’m the type of guy who is going to be himself. My dad always told me, ‘Be yourself because everybody else is taken.’ ”
Fellow safety Kendrick Lewis admires Berry’s embracing letters beyond Xs and Os.
“Eric has a great mind,” Lewis said. “He thinks a lot, and he likes to write. He does a great job of how he writes it and how he puts things in perspective, not just football but about life in general. It’s not just poems, we talk a lot, so I learn something from him every day, and he learns stuff from me every day.”
Berry is hesitant to discuss his screenplays, because he doesn’t want someone else to cash in on his ideas. He hopes to shop the works in Hollywood.
“I figure that I probably will get the funding myself,” he said. “I want to have all the rights to them. I know how good it’s going to be.”
The screenplays are neither based on fact or fiction but originated with dreams.
“The crazy thing is I had a dream about them, and I started writing them down,” he said. “It was like a recurring dream. The whole thing came into my head, and during the whole offseason, I just wrote a little bit about them every time it happened. I know for a fact everybody will watch them. I know one will be an instant classic.
“They show different views of different peoples’ lives. A lot of times people get caught up in what’s going on in their particular social class, or their particular race, and the biggest thing I wanted to show is everybody has the same type of problems. Once we get past those barriers and social boundaries, the world will become a better place.”
Berry’s finest masterpieces could not compensate for missing the 2011 season, especially after he had helped the Chiefs to a 10-6 record and AFC West title as a rookie.
“Not being able to help the team was the worst part,” said Berry, the club’s first-round draft pick in 2010. “Seeing certain plays where I was like, ‘dang, if I was out there, I would have made that play’ it was hard to watch a lot of the games, but that was part of the process of me being more hungry to get out there.”
Berry started all four preseason games, and while he and the starters did not play entire games, coach Romeo Crennel said he’s seen enough of Berry to think he’s regained his form of 2010.
“I thought at practice last week that he had a great week flying around on the practice field, and that showed up in the (last) game and has shown up during the course of this preseason,” Crennel said. “Generally, he is around the football, and that’s where he likes to be. He tackles, he covers, he rushes, and he’s done all of those things at a good level for us, so that makes me feel like he’s back.”