Published July 31, 2010
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The kid wore a "KC Chiefs" logo on his cap and a worshipful look on his face.
"Wow! Eric Berry can do anything!" he exclaimed, so excited his dad reached over to make sure he wouldn't fall out of the riser.
The kid was not alone in keeping his eyes glued to No. 29 Saturday morning. Everybody in Chiefs camp was keeping their eyes on No. 29. And the rookie safety from Tennessee, one day after signing a big contract, did not let them down.
The fifth overall pick in the draft, Berry brought cheers from several thousand fans more than once with his moves and quickness during one-on-one drills. On one of his most memorable moments, he shadowed the receiver down the field and turned his back at just the right moment to knock the ball away, bringing a big cheer.
"I'm just excited to be here today. I'm just so excited," he said.
According to reports, Berry's deal is for six years and as much as $60 million. But not even the highest-paid safety in football is exempt from a little rookie hazing.
At the end of a long, hot morning practice on Saturday, Berry came trudging up the hill toward the locker room lugging not just his own helmet and shoulder pads. He also carried the equipment of a couple of teammates, something most rookies are required to do for veterans.
"These are (wide receiver) Duane Bowe's pads and (cornerback) Maurice Leggett's helmet," he said. "I'm just thankful that we have really good vets on our team that have really just taken me under their wing."
The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Berry steps into what was perhaps the weakest area on one of the worst defenses in the league. He's expected to become an instant starter. That's why coach Todd Haley was crossing his fingers for an early contract agreement that would get him in on time. As it was, Berry missed only one practice. And he immediately addressed that when he showed up at camp Friday evening.
"He was texting us saying he wanted to be here on time," cornerback Brandon Flowers said. "He even apologized for not making it on time. That just shows he's ready to come in, wanting to win games."
Berry said the apology was sincere.
"Yesterday was the first practice I ever missed in my whole life. It kind of hurt me," he said. "I just told them I apologized for being late and missing a meeting. And I told them I'm here and I'm ready to do whatever to help this organization get where it needs to be."
Without a doubt, the pressure will be severe. Many fans will look to him as the player who's going to save the defense.
"I think the biggest focus is on us just coming together as a defense," he said. "No one person is going to save anything or do anything for a team sport. I just want to come here and play my part, play my role and make sure I'm doing everything in my power to help my teammates. I think we're all on the right track to doing some good things."
For the most part, the secondary looked sharp in Saturday's drills.
I've been pleased with the secondary," Haley said. "I think that's going to be a critical group for us this year. It's got a chance to be one of the strengths of our team if the guys continue to get better."