ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Eric Berry arrived at Chiefs training camp before he was required to last season, so eager was the All-Pro safety to get back on the field after undergoing treatment for cancer.
He wasn't seen reporting with the rest of the veterans on Friday.
Berry was designated the Chiefs' franchise player but has not yet signed his contract, which means he cannot be disciplined for skipping camp. But considering the one-year deal promises to pay him more than $10.8 million, Berry is expected to sign at some point before the season. That contract would make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL this year.
"It is a business and in this business it's next man up," said Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley, who was among the steady stream of players who reported to Missouri Western State University. "That's the way they coach. That's the way it's always been."
The Chiefs are scheduled to hold their first full-squad workout on Saturday.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid was not available to discuss Berry's situation, and he has largely kept out of the negotiations. While Reid handled many of the player personnel decisions when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles, he has turned that responsibility over to general manager John Dorsey. Dorsey waved to reporters from his bicycle Friday but did not stop to speak.
The Chiefs and Berry's representatives were never close to reaching a long-term agreement by the July 15 deadline, even though there was plenty of goodwill between the sides. The Chiefs stood by him during his treatment for lymphoma and Berry has been a steadfast face of the franchise.
Now, their contract talks must be shelved until after the season.
The Chiefs could still rescind the franchise tag, something that Reid did twice in Philadelphia — with linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and defensive tackle Corey Simon. But doing that would not only make Berry a free agent, it would significantly weaken the Chiefs in the defensive backfield.
Berry played in every game last season, less than a year after his cancer diagnosis. He made 55 tackles, had a pair of interceptions and resumed his role as the heart and soul of the defense.
"I know the kind of person that he is. Whatever way you cut it, Eric Berry is a great football player and good things are going to happen for him here," Reid said earlier this week. "I know how he's wired and he loves to play the game. That's just how it is."
The Chiefs play their first regular-season game Sept. 11 against San Diego.
"It's a weird dynamic that you are juggling with finances and playing," Reid said, "but I've seen it before, guys normally come in and they just go. When it's time to play, they just play. They put the business side aside and they get after it."
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