Column: Kansas City’s Eric Berry has mass on chest, feared to have lymphoma

Eric Berry, Cooper Helfet
Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, left, prevents Seattle Seahawks tight end Cooper Helfet from catching a pass during the Chiefs’ win on Nov. 16.
(Wesley Hitt / Getty Images)

It started when Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry experienced some chest discomfort during Thursday’s game at Oakland. Now it has evolved into something far more ominous.

Berry, who underwent a weekend of tests at the University of Kansas Medical Center, has a mass on the right side of his chest. The fear is he has lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder told reporters Monday.

Berry, 25, among the NFL’s best defensive players, was placed on the team’s non-football illness list and will sit out the rest of the season. He traveled to Atlanta on Monday to undergo further testing by lymphoma specialists.

“Right now, he needs to be a beast,” said Chiefs Coach Andy Reid, whose team is preparing to play host to Denver on Sunday Night Football. “He’ll attack this.”

Berry issued a release through the team, thanking his family, friends, fans and everyone with the Chiefs.

“At first I was in shock with the diagnosis on Saturday and did not even want to miss a game,” he said in the statement, “but I understand that right now I have to concentrate on a new opponent.

“I have great confidence in the doctors and the plan they are going to put in place for me to win this fight. I believe that I am in God’s hands and I have great peace in that. I know my coaches and teammates will hold things down here the rest of the season and until I am back running out of the tunnel at Arrowhead.

“I am so thankful and appreciative of being a part of this franchise and playing in front of the best fans in the NFL. I will be back!”

For starters

Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden says he has “every intent” to start Robert Griffin III at quarterback against Indianapolis. “But we’ll look at the tape and make our evaluations here shortly.”

Which doesn’t sound like a rock-solid guarantee.

The numbers aren’t very encouraging. The team is 4-14 with Griffin starting since the beginning of the 2013 season, and is 0-3 since the star run-pass threat returned from an ankle injury. Washington has scored one touchdown in each of the last two games.

“We can’t attribute it all to Robert,” Gruden said. “He is the quarterback, though, so we’ll have to look at every avenue and figure out where we can improve.”

A leg up

Denver Broncos Coach John Fox said his team isn’t searching for a new kicker after Brandon McManus clanked a 33-yard attempt into the right upright Sunday, when the team was trailing Miami by four points in the third quarter.

Although Denver won, ESPN reported Monday that the team would be shopping for a new kicker this week. NFL teams typically work out free agents on Tuesday, the players’ day off, and Fox didn’t rule out looking at kickers.

“We have tryouts every week at a lot of different positions,” he said. “My satisfaction with Brandon McManus is kind of like our record. We’re 8-3. I wish we were 11-0 but we are where we are and we’re always looking to improve our team if we feel we need to be.”

On McManus missing a kick he should have made, Fox said: “If you haven’t missed a kick you probably haven’t ever kicked, first of all. I think that speaks for every kicker in the National Football League. It’s like quarterbacks if they miss passes. Obviously he was disappointed, we were disappointed. I was disappointed we didn’t get seven to be quite frank with you.”

Snap to it

Here’s something we hear about, but don’t often see: San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith ran to the sideline in the second quarter Sunday after a big hit on Washington’s Griffin. The tip of the middle finger on Smith’s left hand was bent in an unnatural way.

Simple enough to fix. Smith grabbed his dislocated digit, popped it back in place, and was back on the field two plays later.

His coach’s reaction when he heard about that: Ain’t football grand?

“I wasn’t a witness to that but heard about it after,” 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. “That’s pretty cool. If I did that, I’d tell somebody too.”

In fact, Harbaugh did do that as a player.

“I dislocated my finger and pulled it back in,” the coach said. “That’s a good battle scar to have.”