From the Truman Sports Complex
At first it was disorienting for Eric Berry. He was back on the field with the Chiefs defense for OTA practices and his running mate was nowhere to be found.
Berry and Kendrick Lewis came into the league together in 2010 β Berry was the Chiefs first-round selection, Lewis was taken in the fifth round. But they quickly became starters at strong (Berry) and free (Lewis) safety in the defense under the direction of coordinator Romeo Crennel. With the exception of injuries, they were on the field together for four seasons.
But the Chiefs made no real attempt to re-sign Lewis in this offseason and he landed in Houston. Berry remains in Kansas City, getting used to a new partner at safety in Husain Abdullah and also adjusting to his expanded role in making sure the rest of the defensive players are lined up in the right place.
That used to be Lewis’ job and he did that quite well. Now Berry inherits most of those duties. It also means that defensive coordinator Bob Sutton plans to play him more often at free safety than in his usual role of playing in the box and essentially being a linebacker in the Chiefs nickel and dime defensive packages.
“It’s exciting because that’s what I was accustomed to doing (at Tennessee),” Berry said of lining up at the back of the defense. “We are all prepared to be wherever they need us to be. We try to work and know all the moving parts.
“Just in talking to coach (Reid), he wants me to be the guy that knows what’s going on, make sure I’m stepping up and holding myself and my teammates accountable.”
Abdullah was also a free agent after the 2013 season, but the Chiefs moved quickly to sign him after he played so well last year in sub-defenses and on special teams. He returned an interception for a touchdown against Oakland and started in the playoffs against Indianapolis and had six tackles and two interceptions of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
His intelligence has impressed Berry as they go through the offseason OTA sessions, like the fourth practice they worked in on Tuesday.
“His work ethic and his attention to detail; I can learn something from him,” said Berry. “He’s very particular in his techniques and I pay close attention to him and take note of as many things as I can.
“We are working every day, not just on the field, but outside of football as well,” Berry added. “It’s not just him it’s everybody in the secondary. We are trying to build the chemistry. I have to know where he’s going to be and he has to know where I’m going to be.”
If where he’s going to be more often is at free safety, Berry is fine with the additional duties.
“Back there, it’s almost like backyard football,” Berry said. “You are just reading the quarterback or reading where the ball breaks out and getting to it. You have to have high energy and run to the ball at all times.”