Did Eric Berry do enough to get in to the Chiefs Ring of Honor?
Recently we began a conversation about the Kansas City Chiefs Ring of Honor by looking at the potential of Tyrann Mathieu to eventually make the cut. At this point it’s a longshot dependent on at least a few more years of sustained production and another Super Bowl victory. But what about another elite safety in former Chiefs All-Pro Eric Berry?
Berry endured a lot of criticism towards the end of his time in Kansas City based mostly around his exorbitant contract and the confusing nature of a foot injury that would never heal. Berry was given a “day to day” designation which seemingly lasted for years, which gnawed at fans. Watching them lash out at Berry was unfair in my eyes.
Before the injuries piled up, Berry enjoyed an extremely decorated NFL career with lots of eye-popping plays that propelled him atop the ranks as the best safety in the NFL. Were the extreme highs coupled with the vocal leadership enough to get him into the Ring of Honor—even with all of the missed time? Let’s take a look.
Eric Berry came to Kansas City in 2010 as the 5th overall pick after an illustrious career at Tennessee and immediately made an impact. Starting all 16 games as a rookie, he collected 4 interceptions, 2 sacks, 92 tackles, and a Pro Bowl appearance. As the first Chiefs rookie to be selected to a Pro Bowl since Derrick Thomas, Berry was an absolute stud and everything the Chiefs could have hoped for. Very rarely do rookies step in and dominate at the next level but Berry did so immediately making it was clear he was something special.
Unfortunately, 2011 brought the first entry in what would become a long list of time missed. In the first game, Berry tore his ACL and was out for the rest of the season without recording a stat. A tough sophomore year in the NFL, but Berry was poised to bounce back. He started every game in the 2012 season and amassed 86 tackles, 10 passes defensed. He earned his second Pro Bowl appearance and everything felt back on track.
In 2013, Berry put up his best season and was rewarded with a third Pro Bowl appearance as well as the first of three All-Pro nods. This was Berry not only being a leader in Kansas City but getting the respect and recognition around the league. He was known as one of the most versatile playmakers in the NFL as well as someone who would lay out anyone in his way.
Then came 2014, which brought the devastating news of a Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis. While Chiefs Kingdom was worried about his health, Berry showed himself to be a fighter and beat the cancer in nine months. Before we go on, this is an aspect that I think proved Berry was an essential part of the Kansas City community. He continued to visit and inspire other cancer patients after he beat it and actually kept it pretty quiet to the media. He wasn’t doing it for good PR; he did it because he truly cared and realized the impact he had. People looked up to him for more than just football, and I think that should count for something when it comes to being a Kansas City legend.
In 2015, Berry returned in a big way and won Comeback Player of the Year as well as further Pro Bowl and All-Pro awards. The Chiefs safety looked as good as ever and poised to continue his Hall of Fame trajectory. The fact he was as productive as he was after everything he had to overcome was astounding to me, personally. This man embodied perseverance and was an extremely good role model. Everyone around the NFL was rooting for him, and it was an amazing heartening story.
The next year brought Berry’s final Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. Sadly, after the 2016 season, Berry’s tenure in Kansas City was pretty much over—at least on the field. He played in a total of three games over the next two seasons before eventually being released.
While his vocal leadership was never in question over those final two seasons, a lot of concern over how his injuries were handled on both sides came up. It also didn’t help that Berry signed a $78 million deal after his playing career was largely finished. The contract created outsized expectations for a player who was only one injury away from not playing again.
While five Pro Bowls, three All-Pros and being a leader on and off the field should seemingly be more than enough to make it into the Ring of Honor, the fact is he basically only played those five seasons. Are those extreme highs enough to get in? I think so.
I think that Eric Berry was everything the Chiefs wanted in a player, and even if there will always be “what-if” questions, those highs were legendary. I tend to value higher peaks than longevity which could sway me in this instance, but I think five elite years is just long enough to still get in. Taking into account the leadership and his civic contributions, I think he embodies what it means to be a Chiefs legend.
What do you think? Does Eric Berry deserve to be in the Chiefs Ring of Honor or did injuries and missed time ultimately doom his chances?