KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Eric Berry has his own opinions about whether the Buffalo Bills were out to hurt him in last season’s opener, when a deliberately low block resulted in a season-ending knee injury.
The Chiefs’ safety knows better than to reveal what he’s really thinking, though, instead telling people to watch video of the block and “make your own opinion.”
Berry was in the open field and running toward the ball Sept. 11 when wide receiver Stevie Johnson dove at his knee from the side. Berry was upended near the goal line and ultimately left the game, and the full extent of the injury was revealed a couple of days later.
Although the open-field block was legal, Berry tweeted last month: “Sometimes I sit n wonder if they had a bounty out on me ... oh well ... who cares. Either way u can’t hold me down.”
Berry said that the tweet, sent after revelations of bounties being paid out in New Orleans, was “pretty much a joke.” But pressed about whether he thought the hit was intentional, the Pro Bowl safety gave the impression that he still wonders about it.
“They got the tape out there, you can make your own opinion,” Berry said. “I mean, my opinion is my opinion. People are going to take it how they want to take it anyway.
“To me, that’s in the past,” he said. “It is what it is.”
The issue of bounties has exploded in recent weeks, after the NFL determined that a program was in place in which Saints players were paid bonuses for on-field accomplishments, which included hurting opponents. Such payments violate league rules.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended coach Sean Payton for the entire season, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six. The team also was fined $500,000 and will be forced to forfeit second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013.
Additional sanctions could be levied against some of the players involved.
Johnson said through Twitter last fall that he never intended for Berry to get hurt, and also pointed out in response to sharp criticism that his block was within the rules.
“Regardless of what happens on the film, everything happens for a reason,” said Berry, who was at the Chiefs’ practice facility Tuesday to participate in the team’s offseason program.
Berry said his knee has mostly healed — he spent time rehabbing with tight end Tony Moeaki and running back Jamaal Charles, who sustained the same injury to the same knee in consecutive weeks. All three are expected to be ready by the start of training camp in July.
Berry said the time away from the field made him “more hungry than ever.” It was the first time he’d been away from the game for such an extended period of time.
“I’ve always been motivated, but at the same time, I’ve never been away from the game so long,” he said. “I’m definitely excited, especially to be back with my teammates.”
Berry said he’s never been around a team, including college, where players were encouraged to hurt other players. He said the only thing that Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel — now the head coach — ever asked of his players is to give maximum effort.
“I’ve never played on a team where there was anything like that going on,” added Chiefs cornerback Stanford Routt, who spent most of his career in Oakland. “Whatever was going on in their locker room, that was their business.”
Defensive tackle Tyson Jackson also said he’d never been around a bounty program, whether with the Chiefs or in college, and he hadn’t paid much attention to the Saints’ situation.
Asked whether he ever felt targeted by an opposing player, quarterback Matt Cassel offered a bit of levity: “I always think I’m in a game when the opponent is trying to hurt me!”
“No, I don’t think I’ve ever had someone come at me with malicious intent,” he added. “We play a violent enough game, so you’re always shocked when you hear about this stuff. I think it’s being handled accordingly, and I think the commissioner’s taken a pretty hard stance.”