Eric Berry took ‘intentional sabbatical’ in 2019, will play in 2020
By Matt Conner
NFL analyst Mike Garafolo has word that former Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry took an “intentional sabbatical” in 2019 with plans to play in 2020.
For any other player, the idea of not having played for an entire year in the NFL and then returning the following season, at the age of 30 and after numerous injuries, would seem like a far-fetched tale and, even more likely, a laughable idea. For Eric Berry, however, that’s reportedly been his plan for some time.
NFL reporter Mike Garafolo spoke on NFL Network on Saturday with an official update as to Berry’s whereabouts, a player who has completely stayed out of the spotlight for this entire season. He has word that the former Kansas City Chiefs star safety took off this entire year on purpose, an “intentional sabbatical,” he said, in order to prepare himself to return at full-strength for the 2020 season.
“It turns out that he actually did have opportunities to play in the league this past year. He took a sabbatical,” said Garafolo. “He wanted to make sure he could get himself right both mentally and physically, because remember, it was the first time he’s ever experienced getting cut and he had that Achilles thing that kept him off the field last year.”
Berry played a total of three games for the Chiefs down the stretch in December after sitting the entire year in 2018 and missing all but a single game in 2017 as well. After playing the waiting game with Berry’s availability to return from an Achilles injury and then ongoing issues with his foot/ankle, the Chiefs decided to cut ties last offseason and invested in a fully upgraded safety tandem of free agent Tyrann Mathieu and second round draft pick Juan Thornhill out of Virginia.
While it seems like a longshot to expect Berry to return, the reality is that he’s done so in the past against tremendous odds to not only play professional football again post-lymphoma diagnosis, but to do so at such a high level. Berry was named All-Pro two straight seasons after battling cancer a year away from the game and was ranked by his peers as the No. 13 best player overall in the NFL in the league’s 2017 countdown of its Top 100 players. In short, Berry is an exceptional athlete with a track record of rising above his circumstances.
“He does intend to play in 2020. He’s only 31 right now, I believe, so he still believes he has some good football left. But an intentional sabbatical this year to step away from football a little bit and basically cleanse his system,” said Garafolo.
It’s clear that the Chiefs have officially moved from Berry, so his return will, unfortunately, not be with the team that has served as his home in the NFL since he was drafted at No. 5 overall back in 2010. Mathieu and Thornhill are in their first year together and the Chiefs are in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. Even so, it would be exciting to see Berry back in the league once again and achieving what only he can do.
If word is leaking now about Berry’s interest, expect more rumors to surface as the offseason creeps closer. Berry is still a free agent now, but teams making plans to bring in talent at safety will want to be able to check in on the Tennessee product to see where he’s at and what he can still bring to the table.