KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs haven't seen Eric Berry on the field for a game in more than 14 months, so the sight of No. 29 back on the practice field Wednesday after missing the first 11 games of the season provided head coach Andy Reid with a reason to smile.
“It's good to see him getting back healthy,” Reid said. “One thing you know about (Berry), this is killing him to watch. He loves to play. It tears him up not to be out there.”
Berry missed all but one game of the 2017 season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon, but it's actually been a painful right heel injury keeping him sidelined this season. While Reid says it's great to have Berry back on the practice field, he's in no rush to push his veteran safety too far too fast.
“I think he's as curious as we are to see how he feels,” Reid said. “But we're going to go ease with it. He and I'll talk and he'll talk with the docs and the trainers. We're not forcing him back though this week, next, whenever, I don't care about that. Just make sure he's healthy.”
The Chiefs defense underwent a makeover heading into this season, and chemistry remains a work in progress. The club ranks 28th in the league in allowing 26.7 points per game. Reid and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton both cited communication as a problem early in the season as newcomers worked into the lineup.
Yet Berry has never played a game with cornerbacks Kendall Fuller or Orlando Scandrick among other key defenders. But Reid hopes the partnership on the back end of Berry and safety Ron Parker will help smooth the eventual transition.
“He and Ron have done that together and they're not afraid to talk and communicate and make it loud,” Reid said. “He's not going to be wishy washy on his calls. When he puts a call on you're going to know it. I think they'll be OK that way. He's seen a lot over the years so I don't think that will be too much of an issues.”
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz said Berry's return is big for the entire team, not just the defense.
“He's a guy that gets everyone hyped and ready to go, and that's team wide whether it's offense, special teams or defense,” Schwartz said. “Obviously the biggest impact is on his unit over there and kind of the down in, down out situation, but it's great to have a guy like that around.”
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes said even while on the sidelines, Berry set an example for the team's younger players with his leadership and work ethic.
“He's up here as much as everybody but coach Reid,” Mahomes said. “He has that mindset. He's one of the hardest working dudes I've ever seen and no matter what's happened this entire season, I know he wants to be on that field.”
Berry seems unlikely to play this week at the Oakland Raiders. Reid says he doesn't care when Berry returns to lineup, do long as his return comes at a time that make sense for the player. But after describing Berry's status as day-to-day the first 11 weeks of the season, now Reid calls it “play-by-play.”
“We'll just see how he's doing,” Reid said. “There's no pressure there with any of that, it's just how he feels.”