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Safety Eric Berry passes first test in return to Kansas City Chiefs

By
The Sports Xchange
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) holds up the ball after an interception in the first quarter on January 9, 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston. File photo by Erik Williams/UPI
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) holds up the ball after an interception in the first quarter on January 9, 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston. File photo by Erik Williams/UPI | License Photo

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs rank 28th in the league in points allowed per game and 31st among yards surrendered, but head coach Andy Reid saw something different in his defense during the first half of Thursday night's game against the Los Angeles Chargers with Eric Berry on the field for the first time this season.

"It picks everybody up, it gives everybody a little bit extra juice, absolutely," Reid said about Berry's return.

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The outcome of Thursday's game certainly told a tale of two halves for the Chiefs' defense.

With Berry on the field in the first half, the Chiefs yielded just 5.7 yards per play and allowed just seven points. In the second half with Berry on the sideline, the Chargers picked up 6.5 yards per snap and rattled off 22 points for a come-from-behind 29-28 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.

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Berry certainly seemed to make a difference both by the eye test and by the numbers.

"I thought he made plays, he made some nice plays in there," Reid said. "As much in the run game as in the pass game. He had a couple of blitzes that he was good on. All over, all the way through I thought, you're talking about a Pro Bowl player, and you add him into the mix and that's pretty good to do."

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His performance didn't grade out perfect, but Berry seemed to make an impact beyond his own play. The Chiefs' defense seemed more communicative with Berry on the field, including the veteran repositioning teammates before the snap.

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"He had probably one or two snaps that he'd like to have back, but I thought overall he did a nice job," Reid said. "Did a good job of disguising and getting guys in position there when needed. It's good to have him back out there."

Berry's appearance Thursday night marked his first return to the field since Week 1 of the 2017 season. He missed most of last season with a torn left Achilles tendon, then missed the first 13 games of this season with a sore heel in his right foot.

The Chiefs planned to let Berry play the first half, but Reid didn't feel comfortable pushing his veteran too far. Reid admitted to nervousness about bringing Berry back after sitting through halftime.

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"It's not just a matter of playing, it's the adrenaline that's built into it and those legs, they wear out fairly quick so why push it past that," Reid said. "We got probably a few more snaps than we thought we'd get out there. I pulled back on him a little bit."

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Reid said Berry came out of the game feeling good, albeit a bit sore.

"He'll continue to increase time, we'll see how that disperses out there and what the plan will be for this coming week," Reid said. "The positive was that he came out feeling good. He was sore, you know, he was sore he hadn't played in a long time."

Berry said after Thursday's game he considered returning in Week 14 against Baltimore but he didn't "feel it in [his] spirit." Reid said he has full trust in Berry's judgment and his communication with the team's coaching and medical staffs.

"It's a guy that you know wants to play," Reid said. "So if it's not right, we're always going to go on that, particularly with him. He's always been a guy that you can't hold back."

Kendall Fuller Undergoes Thumb Surgery

Kendall Fuller underwent surgery on a thumb injury Friday, but Reid says he expects a quick recovery for the cornerback, who could play against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

"He's doing well," Reid said during his Monday press conference. "This is a short-term thing, there's a good chance he has an opportunity to play in the game coming up here."

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Fuller injured his right thumb in Week 14 in the victory against the Baltimore Ravens. He opted to play with a temporary cast on his wrist in Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Delaying surgery until Friday provided additional recovery time before the team's Week 16 trip to Seattle.

The injury didn't seem to slow Fuller too much against the Chargers. He played all 74 defensive snaps while intercepting a pass and breaking up another -- along with combining for two tackles. Reid said if Fuller plays Sunday he will again wear a cast on his injured thumb and wrist.

"They'll have something made up for it, yeah," Reid said. "He kind of had that going into the last game. He was able to function pretty good."

If Fuller misses any time, veteran Orlando Scandrick would likely step into the starting role opposite Steven Nelson. One of the team's two rookie corners, Tremon Smith or Charvarius Ward, would then step into the nickel corner position. Both rookies have played sparingly on defense this season, with Smith taking just 16 snaps and Ward only 10. Both players have emerged as key special teams contributors, however.

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"They're making progress," Reid said of Smith and Ward. "We'd be OK there if we have to play some other guys there if he's not there."

PLAYER NOTES

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CB Kendall Fuller underwent thumb surgery on Friday, but the Chiefs do not expect the injury to keep him sidelined during his recovery. Fuller injured his thumb against Baltimore in Week 14 and played with a temporary cast on his right hand Thursday night against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs expect Fuller to play against Seattle with a cast on his hand.

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WR Sammy Watkins continues his recovery from a right foot injury, which head coach Andy Reid described as a day-to-day injury. Watkins has missed each of the team's last three games and his status for the club's Week 16 trip to Seattle remains in doubt.

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RB Spencer Ware suffered shoulder and hamstring injuries in Week 14 against Baltimore, but it's the hamstring issue causing the most concern for the Chiefs. Head coach Andy Reid said it's not a severe injury, but it did impact Ware's ability to open up for the game against the Chargers in Week 15. The team plans to evaluate his status on a day-by-day basis and hasn't ruled out his return this week against Seattle.

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LG Cam Erving missed last week's game against the Chargers with a knee injury, but head coach Andy Reid said the lineman continues making good progress in his recovery. Veteran Jeff Allen started in Erving's place against Los Angeles.

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RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif remains on injured reserve while recovering from a fractured fibula and ligament damage in his ankle. He continues wearing a walking boot and remains ahead of schedule in his recovery, but head coach Andy Reid said he's not ready to return yet. If Duvernay-Tardif returns this season, it may not occur until the postseason.

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