Chiefs fans, Eric Berry is not the bad guy!

Aug 15, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry (29) against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason NFL football game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 15, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry (29) against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason NFL football game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Right around this time every year, optimism around the NFL is an all-time high.

Each fan base is thinking something along the lines of “why not us this year?” Well that is unless you’re a Browns fan, then the thinking is more “why is it always us?”

Anyways, the Chiefs kickoff camp under what is seemingly the most optimistic atmosphere in years. That is, except for the dark cloud cast by the Eric Berry holdout.

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Now, from a football perspective, you don’t need me to tell you that Eric Berry is an elite play-maker, on one of the league’s top safeties, and the emotional heart and soul of the team. This is all a given and just a few of the reasons the man has been adored by this fan base ever since his arrival. But when the business side of football decides to rear its ugly head, players tend find themselves on the receiving end of fan ire real quick.

With that being said, I’m not here to tell who should shoulder the responsibility for the current predicament. I am here, however, to ask that as this situation drags out, and it undoubtedly will, don’t make Eric Berry out to be something he is most certainly not – a villain.

Some you are thinking it’s absolutely ridiculous those words even have to be written out – no way would Chiefs fans turn their back on Berry. After all, not only did the guy work relentlessly in 2015 to get back to our team, he achieved the herculean task of actually coming back a better player. How could we ever have contempt for him?

This is where the aforementioned ugly side of football comes in: there’s another camp of fans – one that will see its ranks grow – that believe this is pure selfishness by Berry and that he should put aside his ego for the good of the team. There is definitely some validity in the argument that Berry is putting himself ahead of the team, but you know what? That’s exactly what he should be doing.

If this past month has taught us anything, it’s that football players are, by far, in the worst negotiating position out of all their professional sports brethren. Truckloads of fully-guaranteed money were tossed about in the NBA earlier this month, and 31-year old players were signing six-year deals over in the NHL! Those are two things that not even NFL quarterbacks get to experience during their NFL careers, let alone safeties.

So when a 27-year old Eric Berry, coming off of the best season of his career, is looking to sign what is likely the final lucrative contract of his career, can you really get upset at the guy for trying to maximize his value and secure his long-term future?

Now, without said security is there really any benefit for him up to show up to training camp on the franchise tender? If we’re just looking at 2016, the franchise tag fully guarantees him 16 game cheques totaling $10,806,000; from a short-term financial perspective, there’s zero benefit for him to show up. And let’s be honest, how many of us would go to work for free for an entire month…

On top of that, any injury Eric Berry suffers between now and the end of the season is going to depress his value. Justin Houston was this close to being in the exact same situation just a year ago, and could you imagine the type of contract he’d be signing today with the current status of his knee?

I can tell you one thing for sure: he absolutely wouldn’t be in the exclusive nine-figure club. Now Berry’s in that precarious situation for at least four months starting in September, and fans are expecting him to willingly make it five? I hope you’re starting to see the fallacy of the “team first” argument.

Make no qualms about it, Eric Berry deserves a lucrative long-term deal and the Chiefs should be the team to give it to him; unfortunately, that won’t be happening in 2016. So come the end of August and Berry has yet to strap on his helmet, I implore you to have some empathy and refrain from villainizing the man.

At the end of the day no contract situation is going to the change the fact that he is the perfect archetype for what we want from a Chief: a tireless worker, an inspirational leader on and off the field, and an absolute stud on Sundays.