Chiefs S Eric Berry to miss rest of season after discovery of mass in his chest

Nov 2, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) tackles Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (11) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 2, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) tackles Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (11) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs on Monday placed safety Eric Berry on the non-football injury list after the discovery of a mass on the right side of his chest.

“We don’t have a definitive diagnosis,” head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said during a Monday afternoon press conference, “But the leading consideration what he has right now is lymphoma.”

Burkholder said Berry approached him through defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas after Thursday night’s game in Oakland with a complaint of chest discomfort.

Chiefs team physicians, Dr. Cris Barnthouse and Dr. Michael Monaco, examined Berry before departing Oakland for the return trip to Kansas City.

Berry reported to the training facility Friday still dealing with chest discomfort. The Chiefs put him through a series of examinations on Friday, including an X-Ray and an MRI, the latter prompting the discovery of mass in Berry’s chest on Friday evening.

The 25-year-old Berry underwent more tests Saturday with team doctors and physicians with the University of Kansas Hospital in the form of blood work, CT scans and PET scans.

Burkholder said Berry will undergo more tests, which he categorized as “75 percent done,” in the coming days under the care of Dr. Christopher Flowers, a specialist in lymphoma at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Lymphoma is a form of cancer affecting the immune system.

“In general, they may do further scans,” Burkholder said. “In all likelihood, he’s going to have a biopsy of one of the lymph nodes or of the mass.”

Berry departed for Atlanta on Monday, and he takes the thoughts and prayers of his teammates with him.

“You put football aside in these situations,” coach Andy Reid said. “He had an opportunity today to address the team and feel their love and support, which I think is crucial. When you get in these situations, you hunker down and you battle for your life is what you do. And you have to be in certain frame of mind, you have to have a certain support system to back you up and Eric’s got that, not only with family but also with the Chiefs.”

Reid said Berry was “upbeat and very positive” when he addressed the team, adding Berry felt his teammates needed to hear the news from him.

Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said he spoke to Berry earlier Monday, offering best wishes and prayers for a fast recovery. Hunt also pointed out the personal feelings he had over Berry’s situation given the time spent getting to know him.

“When you have somebody who has been with you for a number of years, and I’ve had a chance to get to know him personally and he’s been such a leader for our football team,” Hunt said. “It probably does pull at the heartstrings a little bit more. But putting that aside, whether it’s an employee in the front office or somebody on the football field, when they are going through a tough time like this, we want to be there to support him.”

For his part, Berry released a statement through the Chiefs.

“I am truly thankful for all of the support from family, friends, coaches, teammates and the entire Chiefs kingdom,” Berry said. “At first I was in shock with the diagnosis on Saturday and did not even want to miss a game, but I understand that right now I have to concentrate on a new opponent. I have great confidence in the doctors and the plan they are going to put in place for me to win this fight.

“I believe that I am in God’s hands and I have great peace in that. I know my coaches and teammates will hold things down here the rest of the season and until I am back running out of the tunnel at Arrowhead. I am so thankful and appreciative of being a part of this franchise and playing in front of the best fans in the NFL. I will be back!”

Berry’s optimism on the road to recovery is matched by the Chiefs.

“We think we have Eric in a really good spot now to have really good outcome with this mass in his chest,” Burkholder said.

Berry’s agent, Chad Speck, took to Twitter to release a heartfelt statement on his client.