Kansas City Chiefs

September 4, 2014

Chiefs safety Eric Berry expects to be ready Sunday

Despite the potential for a lingering injury, Eric Berry will return for the regular-season opener Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium.

The regular-season opener is looming for the Chiefs, which also will mark the return of one of their best defensive players in safety Eric Berry.

Berry, who has missed the entire preseason because of tendonitis in his heel, was asked Thursday if he’ll be ready to go Sunday against the Titans.

“Yeah, I should be,” Berry said. “We’re gonna see. I’ve just been preparing myself in every way I could without being on the field.”

To Berry, who has been practicing for the past week or so, that meant getting his mind right to play.

“I was still working, still watching film, still doing the little mental reps I could,” Berry said. “At this point, a lot of it is mental, just not getting discouraged about not being out there.”

So Berry’s focus has been on the big picture, namely helping the Chiefs return to the playoffs after an 11-5 season.

It will be hard for Berry, a three-time Pro Bowler, to do that if he can’t stay on the field. Berry was asked if it’s an injury that could affect him the entire season.

“We’ll see,” Berry said. “We’ll take it day by day, week by week and see how it goes. I can’t predict the future, so it might go away, it might linger. We don’t know, so we’ll just try to handle it.”

Berry, 25, gave a similar response when asked if he feels any pain or discomfort in the heel.

“We’re going to take it day-by-day, week by week and see what’s up,” Berry said.

Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said Berry looks “fine.”

“I haven’t noticed anything since he’s been back full-time,” Sutton said.

That obviously would be a good thing for Sutton, who used Berry as a sort of Swiss Army Knife last season, when he racked up 74 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

“Any time you get a player like Eric back … his talent level and the way he’s played over the years, it’s a great help,” Sutton said. “Having EB back is a real settling thing back there. It gives us a guy who can make big plays and prevent big plays because he has great range and speed.”

Berry spent a considerable amount of time in the box as a key member of the Chiefs’ nickel personnel, but he also played deep occasionally and could be allowed to roam even more now as he’s grown more comfortable in Sutton’s defense.

They key for him now is to get reacquainted to game speed, which is something that is difficult to simulate. But Sutton hopes Berry’s experience — he’s about to start his fifth season — will help.

“You never can make up for missed practice time, but at least he’s played enough football in real situations that hopefully he can walk back in there and do a pretty good job,” Sutton said. “The biggest thing you still adapt to is the speed of the game. He hasn’t been out there seeing it. Even speed in practice is different than speed in the games.”

Berry expects to feed off the fans’ energy at Arrowhead Stadium.

“I know our fans are going to be very excited,” Berry said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere. I think everybody in America should experience this. Arrowhead is something special. And the fact that we get to start the first game of the season here, I think we need to take advantage of that and get a lot of momentum going into the rest of the season.”

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