NFL roundup: Chiefs’ Berry returns after cancer fight
St. Joseph, Mo. — There was a moment in the early stages of chemotherapy when Eric Berry was having breakfast with his father, and the enormity of what faced him was so great that he broke down and cried.
For 30 minutes, one of the toughest players on the Chiefs roster wept.
Then, he resolved to beat cancer.
Eight months later, Berry walked triumphantly onto the practice fields at Missouri Western State University, joining rookies and select veterans Wednesday for the start of training camp.
Six merciless rounds of draining, debilitating drugs had rid his body of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but they also had stoked the passion that Berry still harbors for the game.
“It’s been a roller-coaster,” he said, “but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Flanked by his father, James, and his mother, Carol, Berry spoke publicly for the first time since he was diagnosed with cancer in December. He recalled the terror that gripped him when the mass was first found in his chest, and the dark days that immediately followed.
The days he didn’t want to get out of bed. The days he struggled to choke down food, all of it tasteless. The seemingly endless trips to the hospital for each round of treatment.
“In the beginning it was hard, it really was,” James Berry said. “Those possibilities go through your mind — ‘What if he can’t play again?’ You think of those types of things, but then you kick those to the side. And when you looked at Eric you said, ‘This guy is a fighter.’ ”
Such a fighter that he chose to receive treatment through an IV rather than a PICC line so that he could keep training.
Between each round of chemo, Berry would squeeze in 10-12 workouts, sometimes struggling just to do five push-ups. But he never lost sight of an audacious goal: be back with Kansas City by the time its season opens Sept. 13 in Houston.
“Everybody wants you to be strong,” Berry said, “but you can’t be strong every day. If you want to be mad today, be mad. If you want to be sad, be sad. But the thing is, don’t stay that way. Get it out of your system and go back to work.”
Berry passed a battery of tests before he was cleared to practice late Tuesday, but it remains unclear when he’ll fully participate in practice. Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said Berry will be monitored constantly, especially during the early portion of camp.
Veterans report Friday. The first full-squad workout is Saturday.
The Chiefs are cautiously optimistic Berry will be ready for the regular season, and such a rapid return would not be without precedent: Coach Andy Reid said they looked at case studies involving other professional athletes, such as Mario Lemieux, in deciding how to proceed.
The Hall of Fame hockey player was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1993, went through a similar course of treatment and returned to finish his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Bell changes focus
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is ready to focus on the season after the NFL cut his suspension from three games to two on appeal following his arrest last summer on DUI and drug charges.
Bell said Wednesday he is “finally glad to get it over with” so he can focus on getting prepared for the 2015 season.
He didn’t go into detail about the nature of his appeal.
Bell was arrested last August following a traffic stop along with then-teammate LeGarrette Blount. The 23-year-old from Michigan State ended up pleading no contest and was sentenced to 15 months of probation and entered into a diversion program.
Long to visit Broncos
The Broncos want to see if former No. 1 draft pick Jake Long is healthy enough to bolster their offensive line to protect 39-year-old Peyton Manning.
Long, the former Michigan star, is scheduled to visit the Broncos on Thursday. He’s also visited with the Giants and Falcons this week.
The first overall pick by Miami in 2008 and a four-time Pro Bowler, Long missed nine games last season in St. Louis with a second torn ACL in two years. The Rams released him this spring.
The Broncos lost star left tackle Ryan Clady to a season-ending knee injury in May, leaving second-round draft pick Ty Sambrailo as Manning’s presumed blindside protector.
Denver signed Ryan Harris after Clady’s injury to provide an experienced backup, and Sambrailo stepped into the starting lineup and quickly impressed coach Gary Kubiak. Chris Clark enters camp as the starter on the right side.
Locking up their top pass rusher, Washington agreed to a multiyear extension with linebacker Ryan Kerrigan on Wednesday, a day before the first practice of training camp.
... The Dolphins placed first-round pick DeVante Parker as well as safety Don Jones on the physically unable to perform list. Tight end Gerell Robinson was placed on the non-football injury list.
Parker, a receiver from Louisville, had surgery on his foot last month and has been in a boot since the procedure.
... The Cardinals placed tight end Jermaine Gresham on the active/physically unable to perform list (back).