Eric Berry

Eric Berry Nearing Return

All year long, the Chiefs have been insisting that All-Pro safety Eric Berry will play this season as he battles back from a bone spur condition known as Haglund’s deformity. Berry also missed all but one game last season as a result of a torn Achilles, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel and that Berry could return for Kansas City’s Week 13 matchup against the Raiders.

Berry has yet to return to practice and will not play against the Rams tomorrow night, but the team has a Week 12 bye before heading out to Oakland, and Berry could return to the practice field during that time. The Chiefs have established themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders thanks to a dynamic offense led by wunderkind quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but the defense — specifically the secondary — has struggled all season. Kansas City was very much interested in trading for the Seahawks’ Earl Thomas to shore up that unit before Thomas suffered a season-ending injury, but Berry’s return would also be a major boost, even if he does not immediately look like his old self.

Top pass rusher Justin Houston also recently returned to the lineup, and he and Berry give the Chiefs two legitimate playmakers in the middle and back end of their defense, which they will probably need to make a deep playoff run.

Berry is also one of the most respected members of the organization, so his return could provide a more intangible leadership boost as well. In addition to all of his on-field accomplishments, he famously overcame a 2014 cancer diagnosis to re-emerge as a First-Team All-Pro in 2015 and 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Raiders, Cooper, Conley, Broncos, Keenum, Chiefs, Berry

There’s been several high profile names rumored to be trade candidates over the past week, including Raiders receiver Amari Cooper. It was reported earlier today that the Raiders were shopping the former first round pick, but now coach Jon Gruden is pushing back on those reports.

“I’m not. I’m not. I’m just sorry to have to deal with a lot of these reports” Gruden insisted when asked about the reports saying he wanted to get rid of Cooper, according to Scott Bair of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Cooper was injured in the Raiders’ loss to the Seahawks after taking a nasty hit and was diagnosed with a concussion. He’s in the last year of his rookie deal but has a fifth-year option for next year, meaning any team that traded for him would have control of him in 2019. Gruden also previously insisted he wasn’t trying to trade Khalil Mack, so perhaps his denials should be taken with a grain of salt.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Case Keenum had another rough game, prompting reporters to ask coach Vance Joseph after the game if Keenum would remain the starter for the Broncos. Joseph answered affirmatively, saying “Case is our quarterback”, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (Twitter link). Keenum left for one play to be evaluated for a concussion, and the home crowd gave backup Chad Kelly a standing ovation. With the Broncos a sinking ship and Joseph on the hot seat, it wouldn’t be surprising if Kelly gets a look at some point.
  • Speaking of Oakland, the Raiders have benched their 2017 first round pick, cornerback Gareon Conley, playing him on zero defensive snaps in their Week 6 loss. Conley could be a possible trade target, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, who tweets that “teams looking to buy low on Conley will be calling.” Gruden has shown a willingness to get rid of high-profile players, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the team gives up on Conley despite his limited time on the field. He missed most of his rookie season due to injury.
  • Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry has mysteriously missed every game this season without much of an update from the team, and he is still without a timetable for a return, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Sources told La Canfora that the team is “extremely confident that he will play this season”, but no one seems to know when and the team will continue to “exude extreme caution” handling him. The Chiefs defense has been a liability this season, and would get a massive boost from Berry’s return.

Latest On Eric Berry’s Status

Eric Berry is almost certain to miss Monday night’s game in Denver. The Chiefs listed their top defender as doubtful for Week 4. The last time he suited up for practice was August 11.

A heel problem’s limited Berry during this time, and he’ll soon have missed a fourth of the Chiefs’ season — a year after missing 15 games. While the three-time All-Pro safety tore his left Achilles’ tendon in 2017, the heel problem is on his right foot.

The 29-year-old defender is battling a bone spur condition known as Haglund’s deformity, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports. Haglund’s causes pain in the Achilles area.

Some guys have been able to play with it — you get a shoe here or there, you can adjust … but that’s what’s going on,” Garafolo said during an appearance on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football (via the Kansas City Star’s Brooke Pryor). “It’s going to be a pain-management thing. It’s not like this thing will tear the Achilles necessarily. A lot of these cases don’t result in a tear, but that’s why with Berry right now, he has not played, and (the Chiefs have) been doing OK. That’s going to allow them a little bit more patience with Berry, but it is extremely painful.”

Andy Reid did not confirm this diagnosis, but it can be safely presumed the Chiefs won’t have Berry against the Broncos.

Berry has surmounted much worse conditions in his career, heroically overcoming a 2014 cancer diagnosis to re-emerge as a first-team All-Pro in 2015 and 2016. He also suffered a torn ACL in 2011, so for all of Berry’s accomplishments, he’s missed a substantial amount of time during his career.

The Chiefs have started Eric Murray and the recently reacquired Ron Parker at safety this season. Their defense, which also lost All-Pro Marcus Peters this offseason, has not fared well. It ranks last in DVOA. The Chiefs are nonetheless 3-0 behind their explosive offense and have been able to exercise patience with Berry. An IR stay would force him to miss at least two months.

Kansas City’s been connected to an Earl Thomas trade, but considering Berry is making a safety-most $13MM per year ($13MM 2018 cap number), the Seahawks’ three-time All-Pro safety’s $10MM-AAV price ($10.4MM 2018 cap figure) would make for a rather extreme cap percentage devoted to safeties in the event of a trade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: Chiefs, Hawks, Rams, Tryouts

With Patrick Mahomes being arguably the NFL MVP through two weeks, the Chiefs are exiting a tough two-game stretch — road assignments against the Chargers and Steelers — at 2-0. They’ve done this without their defensive centerpiece. Eric Berry‘s been bothered by a nagging heel injury and hasn’t practice since early August. However, the three-time All-Pro safety is improving in his recovery and may be ready to practice this week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The cancer survivor was already trying to surmount his second severe NFL injury, having also missed most of the 2011 season prior to tearing his Achilles’ tendon in Week 1 of last year, and is important for a Chiefs defense that’s struggled in shootout wins.

Here’s the latest out of the Wests entering the Seahawks-Bears Monday tilt.

  • Mychal Kendricks will play plenty in his Seahawks debut Monday night, John Schneider said (Twitter link via Stacy Jo Rost of ESPN 710). Austin Calitro will be Seattle’s middle linebacker in place of the injured Bobby Wagner, Schneider said, and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times expects Kendricks to primarily play on the weak side (Twitter link). He’s working with the starters in warmups, per Condotta (on Twitter). Kendricks is facing an NFL suspension for his insider trading charge but is appealing and is thus allowed to play tonight.
  • Rams practice squad center Aaron Neary‘s run into trouble. He was arrested Sunday for suspicion of DUI and hit and run charges, Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com reports. Neary’s blood-alcohol level of .17 was more than twice the legal limit, and Thiry adds he was booked into the Ventura County Jail. Neary came to the Rams recently, after being waived by the Browns to create roster space for Anthony Zettel. He spent most of last season on the Rams’ practice squad, playing in one 2017 game, but may have trouble keeping that spot.
  • Clive Walford ventured to Kansas City for a Chiefs workout on Monday, Rapoport tweets. The former Raiders tight end was a Jets cut this summer. After being a regular in Oakland’s passing game in 2015-16, the one-time third-round pick only caught nine passes for 80 yards last season.
  • The Raiders‘ affinity for 30-somethings this offseason should be well known, and Jon Gruden said the team would have signed Clinton McDonald in March had a medical issue not intervened, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (on Twitter). McDonald signed with the Broncos, but they reworked his contract because of an injury. He’s now with the Raiders, having made his Raider debut in Denver.
  • Joe Callahan was among a contingent that worked out for the Raiders on Monday, Gehlken tweets. The now-well-traveled backup quarterback was most recently with the Eagles during the preseason. Quarterback Kyle Allen, tight end Billy Brown, running back Orleans Darkwa, wide receivers Roger Lewis and Hunter Sharp also auditioned for the Silver and Black, per NFL reporter Howard Balzer (on Twitter). The Colts, Jets, Bills, Patriots (twice) and Redskins have brought in Darkwa for workouts this year.
  • Former Broncos backup inside linebacker Zaire Anderson will work out for the Cardinals on Tuesday, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Anderson spent three years with the Broncos — 2015-17, being on Denver’s practice squad during its Super Bowl season — before being a post-preseason cut. Also working out for the Cardinals: linebacker Nigel Harris, per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter).

AFC Injury Notes: Titans, Ben, Berry, Bolts

Marcus Mariota experienced difficulty gripping the ball after suffering a Week 1 elbow injury, but he could well return for the Titans this week. However, he doesn’t appear to be at full strength. Blaine Gabbert stands to see time as well as an apparent result. Mike Vrabel said he expects to use both of his quarterbacks against the Texans, via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com (on Twitter). Mariota hasn’t made much progress since his injury in Tennessee’s opener and was still experiencing tingling in his throwing arm as of Wednesday, per Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com, making this an interesting situation for a Titans team with playoff aspirations. If Mariota fails to progress by Sunday, it wouldn’t be hard to envision the Titans sitting him. Gabbert filled in for an injury-ransacked Cardinals team last season, making five starts (including a 12-7 win over the Titans). He completed 11 of 22 passes in a loss to the Dolphins last week.

Here’s the latest on the AFC injury front heading into Week 2:

  • A higher-profile AFC passer does look to be in better shape going into Week 2. Ben Roethlisberger practiced fully on Friday, Mike Tomlin said (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter, on Twitter), pointing him toward being available in Sunday’s Steelers-Chiefs tilt. An elbow malady caused Big Ben to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Joshua Dobbs would start against Kansas City if Pittsburgh’s franchise passer can’t go.
  • When Mariota and/or Gabbert take snaps Sunday, they’ll do so with second-string tackles. Jack Conklin won’t be ready to debut, and Taylor Lewan is out as well after suffering a concussion, McCormick notes.
  • Eric Berry‘s ninth NFL season remains on hold while he battles a heel ailment. The All-Pro Chiefs safety did not practice on Friday and is doubtful to suit up in western Pennsylvania on Sunday, per Andy Reid (via Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star, on Twitter). Berry’s battled this heel trouble, on the opposite foot of the torn Achilles he suffered in September 2017, for over a month.
  • As expected, Joey Bosa is out for the Chargers-Bills game Sunday. Right tackle Joe Barksdale won’t suit up, either, ESPN’s Eric Williams tweets. A knee injury’s affecting Barksdale. Sam Tevi is likely to start for the Bolts at right tackle. Second-year defensive end Isaac Rochell replaced Bosa as a starting defensive end last week.

Injury Notes: Berry, Giants, Titans, Falcons

Some teams will be opening their seasons without key defenders. Here’s the latest from the Week 1 injury front:

  • The nagging heel issue Eric Berry‘s been dealing with will likely keep him out of Week 1. Andy Reid (via Adam Teicher of ESPN.com, on Twitter) does not expect his All-Pro safety to be available when the Chiefs play arguably their toughest AFC West game of the season — a road tilt against the Chargers. Berry’s been held out of practice this week. He missed the Chiefs’ final 15 games of last season with an Achilles tear, his second severe NFL injury. Berry’s right heel’s plagued him in recent weeks, and was also an issue in Kansas City’s 2017 training camp; the ninth-year safety tore his left Achilles’ tendon in Week 1 of last season. He hasn’t practice since August 11. Eric Murray and the recently reacquired Ron Parker are K.C.’s likely safety starters, per Teicher.
  • Suffering a high ankle sprain in practice late last month, Olivier Vernon will not be available for the Giants on Sunday. Vernon will miss New York’s Week 1 game against Jacksonville, Pat Shurmur said (via SNY.tv’s Ralph Vacchiano). This will pose a problem for the Giants’ pass rush, which is now without Jason Pierre-Paul. This could push rookie Lorenzo Carter into Big Blue’s lineup Sunday, per Matt Lombardo of NJ.com, who adds the Georgia-developed edge defender may play plenty regardless of his first-string status.
  • The Titans will be missing some key players but may also have one back sooner than expected. Derrick Morgan‘s meniscus issue hasn’t stopped him from practicing this week, and the ninth-year edge player practiced fully on Thursday to put him in line to start Sunday. However, the Titans will begin their season without Jack Conklin, Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, Jim Wyatt of Titansonline.com tweets. Evans and Landry were Tennessee’s top two 2018 draft picks.
  • Keanu Neal‘s Week 1 injury (an ACL tear) proved to be the biggest health news thus far on Friday, and the Falcons may not seek an outside replacement. Damontae Kazee is likely the next man up for the Falcons, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, rather than Atlanta going after former Dan Quinn charge Earl Thomas or UFA Eric Reid.
  • Joey Bosa may miss Week 1 as well, and the Chargers‘ dynamic pass rusher was spotted in a walking boot on Friday, Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Bosa will be out for Sunday’s game, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Bosa missed the preseason with a foot injury, but Wang notes (on Twitter) that ailment healed and that the third-year defensive end is week-to-week because of a different malady on that same foot. While the Bolts have maybe the NFL’s best edge-rushing tandem in Bosa and Melvin Ingram, they aren’t especially deep at that position.
  • Jesse James will start at tight end for the Steelers on Sunday against the Browns. Vance McDonald will miss Pittsburgh’s opener, per Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews (Twitter link). A foot injury shelved McDonald during the preseason, halting the tight end’s offseason momentum as he prepares for his second Steelers season.

AFC Notes: Ravens, Chiefs, Raiders, Broncos

Undrafted rookie kicker Kaare Vedvik wasn’t going to make the Ravens due to the presence of Justin Tucker, but his leg proved so impressive this offseason that it was reported multiple teams were interested in trading for him. Those hopes appeared to be dashed, at least temporarily, when Vedvik was rushed to the hospital with very serious injuries just before roster cuts.

Vedvik can’t really remember what happened to him, but it appears police are suspecting some sort of foul play as he suffered serious head trauma. Ravens coach John Harbaugh thinks it “cost him a chance to kick in this league” and added “there were plenty of trade talks” involving Vedvik according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. It’s an unfortunate situation all around for the Norway native who was shaping up to be a very good story. Here’s to hoping he makes a full recovery.

More from around the AFC:

  • It’s been a long road back to the field for Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry. Berry, who suffered an Achilles tear that cost him the entire 2017 season, is now suffering from a heel injury that may cause him to miss Week 1 according to Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star. Heel and Achilles injuries can be closely related so it makes sense why the team would want to be cautious, but being without Berry for any period of time would be a huge blow to an already weak Kansas City secondary.
  • The Raiders’ trade for Martavis Bryant ended in disaster. The team surrendered a third round pick for the oft-troubled receiver, and he ended up never playing a down for them. Facing yet another suspension, the team cut him this past weekend. Despite all that, Raiders coach Jon Gruden is somehow still open to bringing Bryant back, saying “perhaps we’ll get Martavis again next year and get the best out of him” adding that he’s a “great talent” and that the move “was a risk I think well worth taking” per ProFootballTalk.com.
  • Rookie running back Royce Freeman has been named the Broncos’ starter over incumbent Devontae Booker, according to Mike Klis of 9News. Freeman, a third round pick from Oregon, started the summer as the number two but leapfrogged Booker due to a strong preseason.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/9/17

Here are the today’s minor moves.

  • With a ruptured Achilles’ tendon set to end Eric Berry‘s season, the Chiefs officially placed the eighth-year safety on IR Saturday. The team also signed offensive lineman Jordan Devey and safety Steven Terrell. Both Devey and Terrell went to training camp with Kansas City. The Chiefs cut both last weekend. Terrell started in five games as Earl Thomas‘ replacement with the Seahawks last season.
  • The Colts cut safety Earl Wolff with an injury settlement, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. A 2013 fifth-round Eagles pick, Wolff hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2014. The Redskins signed Wolff to a reserve/futures deal in January but waived him earlier this month.
  • To fill Matt Jones‘ roster spot, the Colts promoted guard Adam Redmond from their practice squad. Redmond signed with the Colts as a UDFA in 2016. He’ll join Deyshawn Bond as a center option for the team, which will be without starter Ryan Kelly to start the season.
  • For now, the Broncos won’t go with a two-Peko setup on their defensive line. They waived defensive tackle Kyle Peko, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post tweets. The Broncos signed Domata Peko to be their starting nose tackle and have until Sunday afternoon to replace his cousin on the roster in advance of their Monday-night game. Kyle Peko missed time this summer because of an injury.
  • The Lions signed offensive lineman Storm Norton off their practice squad and waived linebacker Nick Bellore, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com reports. Rothstein adds this news could mean tackle Corey Robinson — brought off the PUP list last week — may not be ready to play in Week 1. Robinson missed the preseason with an injury.
  • The Saints released outside linebacker Bryan Braman off IR with an injury settlement, Caplan reports (on Twitter).

Chiefs’ Eric Berry Done For Season

Chiefs safety Eric Berry has suffered a ruptured Achilles, meaning his 2017 season is now over, head coach Andy Reid confirmed to reporters, including Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link).Eric Berry (vertical)

The news doesn’t come as a complete surprise, as Reid indicated late last night that the Chiefs were expecting the worst. But it’s still a blow for both Berry and Kansas City, as the 28-year-old is not only an excellent defensive back (as evidenced by his erasing tight end Rob Gronkowski during the Chiefs’ surprise victory over the Patriots on Thursday), but also one of the club’s emotional leaders on and off the field.

Berry played a full 16-game season in 2016 and posted four interceptions, nine passes defensed, and one forced fumble. He graded out as the NFL’s No. 8 safety, per Pro Football Focus, which handed Berry top marks for pass coverage. In February, he re-signed with the Chiefs on a six-year, $78MM deal that made him the league’s highest-paid safety.

The Chiefs do have depth at safety, but clearly don’t have any players that can hope to replicate Berry’s production. Veteran Daniel Sorensen and 2016 fourth-rounder Eric Murray are candidates to take on more snaps, while Kansas City could speculatively re-sign defensive back Steven Terrell, whom the club released during final cutdowns. Other free agent safeties available on the open market include Will Blackmon, Jairus Byrd, Dwight Lowery, and Robert Blanton.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs’ Eric Berry Suffers Achilles Injury

The Chiefs crushed the defending champs on Thursday night, but it wasn’t all roses. Late in the game, star safety Eric Berry was carter off the field with what is feared to be an Achilles tear. The team is still waiting for tests, but head coach Andy Reid is bracing for the worst. Eric Berry (vertical)

I don’t think it’s positive news,” Reid said.

If it’s a full on Achilles tear, then Berry’s season will end after three-and-a-half quarters of September football. From there, the Chiefs will consider promoting reserves Daniel Sorensen or Eric Murray to the starting lineup, but they may also want to look into some outside help.

Berry played a full 16 game season in 2016 and posted four interceptions, nine passes defensed, and one forced fumble. He graded out as the NFL’s No. 8 safety, per Pro Football Focus, which also handed Berry top marks for pass coverage. In February, he re-upped with KC on a six-year, $78MM deal instead of testing the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.