In a league often plagued by negative news stories, Chiefs safety Eric Berry has been a bright spot. He beat cancer. He’s terrified of horses. He’s universally considered an inspirational figure. That makes it all the more heartbreaking that Berry injured his Achilles tendon and was carted off during the Chiefs’ statement victory over the Patriots on Thursday night.
#Chiefs coach Andy Reid said star S Eric Berry has a potential Achilles tear. They'll know more tomorrow... but horrible news after a big W.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 8, 2017
Chiefs S Eric Berry leaving Gillette on crutches. pic.twitter.com/eZ1JU0DE2p— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 8, 2017
Friday morning, the Chiefs confirmed the worst: Berry’s season is over. The All-Pro has a ruptured Achilles, an ailment that is about as dire as it gets for lower-body injuries in football. In a game where the Chiefs made the defending Super Bowl champions look lost, Berry played a major part, limiting Rob Gronkowski to just two receptions on four targets for 33 yards on plays when the two were matched up.
Berry was the sixth-highest-graded safety in football last season by Pro Football Focus and a first-team All-Pro for the second consecutive year. He was also a human highlight reel, snagging a pick-six off Cam Newton where he just mashed the B button to spin into the end zone. He was the star of one of the most exciting plays of last season, when the Falcons, down 27–22 late in the fourth quarter, scored a touchdown to take a one-point lead. Atlanta decided to go for the two-point conversion, but Berry intercepted Matt Ryan’s pass and took it all the way to the end zone for two points, giving the Chiefs a 29–28 victory with the first pick-2 in NFL history. With Berry out for the season, not only are the Chiefs down a critical defender, but fans are going to lose out on at least a couple of “did you freakin’ see that?” highlights.
Now tasked with filling Berry’s All-Pro shoes is 27-year-old safety Daniel Sorensen. An undrafted free agent out of BYU, he has been with the Chiefs since 2014 but has started only one game in his career.
Berry has had a stark medical history since joining the NFL, beginning with an ACL tear in 2011. In November 2014, doctors found a mass in his chest that turned out to be Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He missed the rest of the season, but after chemotherapy he was declared cancer free, and returned to the NFL in 2015 to play some of the best football of his career, earning AP first-team All-Pro and NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors.
Berry is out for 2017, but he should bounce back — he’s been through much worse.
This piece was updated after publication with additional information about Berry’s injury.