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Eric Berry could return as Chiefs get back to work

By
The Sports Xchange
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) waves to the fans as he leaves the field following the Chiefs' 30-0 win over the Houston Texans in the NFL Wild Card Round game in 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston. File photo by Erik Williams/UPI
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) waves to the fans as he leaves the field following the Chiefs' 30-0 win over the Houston Texans in the NFL Wild Card Round game in 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston. File photo by Erik Williams/UPI | License Photo

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Chiefs return to work on Tuesday after a week-long break to start preparations for an AFC West road trip to Oakland, but the showdown between head coach Andy Reid and Raiders head coach Jon Gruden pales in comparison to the possible return of safety Eric Berry.

Reid plans to discuss with Berry a possible return to practice as early as Wednesday. A sore heel kept the three-time All-Pro defender on the sidelines through the first 12 weeks of the season. But while some anticipate Berry's possible return providing a shot of adrenaline into an inconsistent Chiefs defense, Reid says he's under no illusions what Berry might bring to the table during the season's home stretch.

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"I think we'll just take that day-by-day and just see how he does," Reid said. "I don't have an expectation either way on that. I wouldn't know how to gauge that right now, but I know he is feeling better."

Berry last practiced with the Chiefs on Aug. 11, but his absence from the field goes back much further. He ruptured his left Achilles tendon during the team's 42-27 season-opening win against the New England Patriots in 2017 and missed the remainder of the season. That's the only game Berry has played -- preseason, regular season or playoffs -- since the team's 18-16 playoff loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 15, 2017.

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There's nothing new, however, with the sore right heel plaguing Berry now. The heel served as a nuisance last season before he tore his left Achilles. Berry reportedly developed a Haglund's deformity in his right heel, which is an enlargement of the bone near the Achilles tendon. The condition causes inflammation and severe pain in the foot, and can lead to bursitis.

Reid has declined to confirm the diagnosis. Club have described Berry, who turns 30 next month, as "literally day-to-day" since the opening week of the season.

"He's gotten a little bit better every week," Reid said. "It's not one of those things that heals overnight, that's not how that works."

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While Berry appears likely to test his problematic heel on the practice field soon, his return to the lineup doesn't appear imminent. Given his length layoff, Reid sees no reason to rush Berry back into action too soon. If he practices this week, a return in Week 14 at home against Baltimore appears more likely than at Oakland this weekend.

"I think we just start him off slow, let's see what he can do when that thing feels right," Reid said. "Whether it's this week, next week, whatever, again there's no expectation there."

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While the Chiefs defense ranks 28th in allowing 26.7 points per game, the team doesn't expect to need Berry against the Raiders, which opened as 15-point underdogs. That would make Kansas City the league's biggest road favorite in more than nine years since New England entered as a 15 1/2-point favorite at Tampa Bay in 2009.

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Reid and Gruden share a friendship tracing back to their days as assistant coaches with the Green Bay Packers during the 1990s.

Some doubted whether Gruden could move seamlessly back into coaching after 10 seasons in the broadcast booth. His team's 2-9 record suggests some validity to that argument, but Reid doesn't buy it.

"He's doing it his way, and I think you're going to see that over the years," Reid said. "It's not going to be a change overnight, it's going to be something that takes a little time. He understands that. He's trying to build that to where it lasts and lasts for a long time."

Reid calls Gruden a phenomenal coach who still loves football. He saw his old friend keep a close connection to the coaching fraternity as studied film as a broadcaster and traveled to teams throughout the league.

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"The one thing that he was able to do was he got to study everybody and visit and see how things were done at other places. When people said that it would be tough for him to come back, I knew how close he had remained to the game."

The Chiefs have dominated the AFC West of late, winning 19 of their last 20 games inside the division. The lone loss in that streak came at Oakland last season in 31-30 setback in a game determined on the second of two untimed downs following defensive penalties at the end of regulation.

"These AFC West opponents, they're tough venues to play at," Reid said. "The main thing is you've got to get yourself prepared when you go in there to play against a good football team. If you can stick with that process of doing that, how you prepare, not Saturday night but throughout the week and do it the right way, then you'll do better."

--WR Sammy Watkins continues dealing with a right foot injury that kept him out of the team's 54-51 loss at Los Angeles in Week 11. Head coach Andy Reid said the foot remains tender, and the team plans to re-evaluate Watkins on Wednesday.

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--S Eric Murray received a fine of $26,739 for an unnecessary roughness penalty he drew following a hit on Rams WR Robert Woods during their Week 11 contest. Head coach Andy Reid indicated he expects the third-year safety to appeal the fine.

--WR Tyreek Hill received a fine of $10,026 fine for flashing the peace sign at the end of a touchdown catch against the Rams in Week 11. Hill received a penalty for taunting on the play. Hill has flashed the same celebratory gesture on several occasions without drawing a penalty or fine.

--C Mitch Morse remains in the league's concussion protocol. The team will reevaluate Morse's status when the team returns to work following the bye week on Tuesday with a determination of his practice availability on Wednesday.

--QB Patrick Mahomes tweaked his foot during the team's Week 10 win against Arizona, but the injury did not seem to slow him during his performance against the Los Angeles Rams last week. Mahomes split his time between Kansas City and his home in Texas during the bye week over the Thanksgiving holiday.

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