ST. JOSEPH, Mo. - Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry returned to the Kansas City Chiefs' practice field Wednesday, just eight months after a cancer diagnosis threatened to derail his career.
Berry walked down the long hill from the locker room to the practice fields at Missouri Western State University, wearing his familiar No. 29 and with his helmet in hand. He stretched with rookies and select veterans, then joined them for parts of the workout.
"He looked pretty good out here with the work that he had," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
Berry passed a battery of tests before he was cleared to practice late Tuesday, but it remains unclear when he will be a full participant in practice. Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said Berry will be monitored constantly, especially during the early portion of camp.
Veterans report Friday, and the first full-squad workout is Saturday.
"He did a good bit of practice today ... and at the end he felt pretty good," Burkholder said. "Right now, we're very optimistic that everything is headed in the right direction."
Berry was expected to speak to reporters later Wednesday.
The three-time Pro Bowl pick was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in December, shortly after a mass was discovered in his chest following a game against Oakland. Berry began the first of six rounds of chemotherapy on Dec. 10 at Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute near his home in Atlanta, and completed the final round of treatment on May 13.
Between each treatment, Berry was able to squeeze in 10 to 12 workouts, Burkholder said. He even chose to have the chemotherapy delivered intravenously rather than through a PICC line, which would have severely limited his amount of physical activity.
"That's been his attitude -- 'I'm going to work out during this. I'm going to start the first game.' That's his attitude," Reid said, "and that's what drove him through this. There were some tough days for him, this wasn't a breeze, but that's what motivated him."
On June 22, Berry had a follow-up PET scan that showed he was cancer-free.
The Chiefs had just finished their mandatory minicamp, so Berry headed to Florida, where he trained with teammates Travis Kelce, Justin Houston and others. Then last week, he headed back to Kansas City for another round of testing to make sure he was in football condition.
"He sailed through every test we gave him," Burkholder said with a grin. "His doctors -- I'll speak for them -- they were very pleased with his numbers."
While the Chiefs are optimistic Berry will be ready for the opener Sept. 13 in Houston, his rapid return would not be without precedent: Reid said they looked at case studies involving other professional athletes, such as Mario Lemieux, in deciding how to proceed.
The Hall of Fame hockey player was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1993, went through a similar course of treatment and returned to finish his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"One of the things Eric and I talked about was just being honest with us about how you're feeling out here," Reid said, "and sometimes that's hard for a player to do, especially with his makeup. He's been great with that up to this point and I think that will continue through."