When Eric Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, his future became clouded with mystery. And while a number of outsiders are sweating the safety’s salary-cap implications, the two people who have the final say in them, Kansas City Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt and GM John Dorsey, are doing anything but.
Per Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star, the two boarded a plane this past Monday and made a trip to see the three-time Pro Bowler—a gesture that Dorsey accredited to the owner. After landing, they then made their way to the home of Berry’s parents, spending two hours with the 26-year-old’s family.
Throughout their stay, the two found the same charismatic star that they’ve come to know.
Dorsey told Paylor:
"He was laughing, he was in good spirits. That’s all you can ask for. And I think, whenever somebody is going through something like that, it’s appropriate that we, as an organization, make the effort to go see a player that’s very meaningful to us. That’s what it’s all about."
While the Super Bowl is a week and change away, the Chiefs’ offseason has already begun. After his visit in Atlanta, Dorsey rerouted to Mobile, Alabama, to scan the Senior Bowl for talent.
Meanwhile, locals have been crafting “cut ‘em or keep ‘em” blueprints, sitting behind desks and axing liabilities in Trump-like fashion. Given the circumstances, it was inevitable that Berry’s name would eventually breach the conversation. The team is strapped for cash but has a handful of must-sign free agents, ranging from kickoff-covering specialists to All-Pro record-breakers.
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Furthermore, while the Chiefs are a few pieces away from challenging for the AFC West throne, said pieces don’t figure to be cheap. And free agency aside, Kansas City still has to clear room to sign its draft picks.
So, naturally, people start scouring the roster and stop on one name.
“So…about Berry…should we—I mean, what are the options?” Fans, writers, talking heads—everyone poses the question with an “asking for a friend”-like shame, sympathetically hurling a grenade into a hot-potato circle.
Nobody knows the eventual answer.
If Berry doesn’t return to action next year, maybe he accepts a reduced salary. If he does take the field, maybe he looks like Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 safety (subscription required) of 2013.
Regardless of the wheres, whys and hows, the team is going the extra mile(s) to prove why it ends every postgame huddle with “family!” Dorsey recalled, “I didn’t know what this meant, but he said ‘John, I’ve got big cheese on my face.’ … I didn’t know what that meant, but it meant a big smile.”
Football is a testosterone-fueled business that houses some of the most hyper-competitive athletes in the world. It’s a revolving door of comers and goers and shredded contracts.
But whenever they’re asked about the element of the game that they cherish(ed) most, players, both current and former, tend to speak of the brotherhood.
Kansas City’s GM may not be able to empathize with having a life-threatening disease, but he can, on an infinitely smaller scale, relate to having a career-threatening injury.
Summarizing the visit, Dorsey added, “He was E.B. He was talking about ’ball. We were talking as friends.”