When their first offseason practice began earlier in the week, Chiefs safeties Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis were among a small group of players who headed to the edge of the field to work with the trainers.
Both players are recovering from injury. That, plus a hamstring injury to rookie DeQuan Menzie, forced the Chiefs to go with the unlikely duo of cornerback Travis Daniels and undrafted rookie Terrance Parks at safety.
That arrangement is fine with the Chiefs for now, when practice is conducted in shorts. It becomes a concern in late July if the Chiefs open training camp in St. Joseph without either player.
Berry has said he will be ready to play then. Lewis, a fellow starting safety who had postseason surgery to repair what he said was a torn pectoral muscle, wasn’t as definitive.
“Whenever the trainers say it’s cool for me, whenever they release me,” Lewis said when asked when he would be available to play. “I’m just playing it by ear, waiting it out. Everything is going smooth, according to plan, so whenever they’re ready to release me, that’s when it is. I’m just going on their call.
“It’s real frustrating because I love the game. We’ve been away from it so long and to see the guys going out there, going back to work, having fun, doing it … I looked at them like, ‘Man, I wish I could be out there.’ But I’ve got to be patient and do whatever the trainers and coaches say and get back when I’m ready.”
The Chiefs don’t seem particularly concerned about either player. They visited with at least a couple of veteran safeties since the end of the season but haven’t signed one.
The way Lewis is moving this week, it doesn’t appear that his absence will be a prolonged one. Once he returned to the sideline after working with the trainers, he tried to stay involved.
“I’m still training in my mind, learning the plays, knowing the plays, when they come out of the huddle making the calls on the sideline, helping the young boys out,” said Lewis, who was injured while making a tackle on Denver quarterback Tim Tebow in the season’s final game. “So I’m still getting my mental reps in. It’s just the fundamental, physical nature of it that I’m missing.”
Lewis is also missing the chance to practice with new starting cornerback Stanford Routt, who was signed over the winter as a free agent.
“We have conversations,” Lewis said. “Mentally, we’re getting on the same page. I’m picking his brain, he’s picking my brain. We’re not out there (together), so he doesn’t see how I work on the field, but still, when he comes to the sideline, I might ask him, ‘What did you see in that?’ just to know his thought process so we can be on the same page when we do hit the field (together).”
Berry was lost for the season with torn knee ligaments suffered on one of the first plays of the Chiefs’ opener against Buffalo. The injury busted up, at least temporarily, a promising safety duo.
Each joined the Chiefs as a draft pick in 2010. Berry was an immediate starter and Lewis joined him after one game. Their play was one reason the Chiefs won the AFC West title that season.
“That’s all we talk about,” Lewis said. “He’s coming back healthy. I’m coming back. All we talk about are the things we talked about when we first got here: trying to be great, trying to be the best at our position, trying to help this team become a greater team.”