01/18 14:26 CST Chiefs' Berry confident he'll play AFC title game vs Pats
Chiefs' Berry confident he'll play AFC title game vs Pats
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) --- Chiefs safety Eric Berry sounded confident Friday
that he'll be on the field when Kansas City plays the New England Patriots in
the AFC championship game at Arrowhead Stadium.
The three-time All-Pro has been a full participant in practice this week after
dealing with a heel injury, but needs the OK from coach Andy Reid to take the
field on Sunday night.
"I feel pretty good. Just talk to coach and see what he wants to do and go from
there," Berry said. "It would mean a lot not just for me and my family and my
teammates, but the organization."
Berry tore his Achilles' tendon in last year's opener, sidelining him the rest
of the season. He returned in time for summer workouts and the start of
training camp. But a mysterious heel injury popped up that kept Berry off the
field until Week 15 against the Chargers.
Berry played more the following week on the turf in Seattle, but the injury
recurred and he missed the regular-season finale against Oakland and the
divisional round matchup against Indianapolis.
"It was pretty frustrating, but you just have to keep rolling," said Berry, who
nevertheless broke down the pregame huddle with an emotional pep talk. "Keep
focused and keep your head down."
Berry has become a pro at overcoming adversity.
He missed most of one season with a torn ACL in his knee, and he missed the end
of another when he was diagnosed with cancer. In both instances, he recovered
in time to play the following season.
However, those situations were relatively straightforward. There was a clear
diagnosis and obvious path toward recovery. But the heel has been a challenge
for Berry and the organization, once viewed as a "day-to-day" situation that
became a saga that lasted months.
There have been various reports, always citing unnamed sources, of a heel
deformity that causes intense pain, but the Chiefs and Berry have refused to
Asked several times about the injury Friday, Berry merely replied: "It's hard
Berry said he wasn't concerned about the field causing the heel problems. It
was torn up in the divisional round after several inches of snow fell before
the game. The grounds crew spent this week replacing the turf between the
hashes, along the sidelines and in one of the end zones.
"I'm just being prepared for every situation," Berry said. "Our field crew,
grounds crew is very good. They do a very good job. Just trusting in them that
they can get the job done."
Berry's value lies not just in his athletic ability, though the Chiefs could
use some help covering Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on Sunday. Rather, his
biggest benefit to a defense that has struggled mightily at times this season
may be his leadership and on-field demeanor.
"A huge impact. He's a huge player for us," Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford said,
while defensive tackle Chris Jones said "the physicality he brings to this team
and the leadership role is amazing."
When he's at his best, Berry is one of the best safeties in the NFL, adequate
in coverage and dynamic at stuffing the run. But even at a fraction of his
best, Berry is still talented enough to impact a game, and that's why his
return could prove so critical to the Chiefs.
"I mean, Eric's a good football player. He's an All-Pro player," Reid said.
"That'd be an obvious statement, but it's another good player in the mix. A
Notes: Chiefs OLB Dorian O'Daniel (hamstring) was ruled out for the game. ...
WR Sammy Watkins (foot) and RB Spencer Ware (hamstring) participated in
practice all week and are expected to play.
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