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Chiefs place Berry on non-football illness list

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry is gearing up for a fight after a mass was found in his chest following last week’s game in Oakland. He was placed on the non-football injury list Monday, and trainer Rick Burkholder said Berry may have lymphoma.

Burkholder said doctors are “75 percent” of the way toward a definitive diagnosis, and that Berry was on his way to Atlanta to be examined by specialists at Emory University.

“They may do further scans. In all likelihood, they’ll do a biopsy of one of the lymph nodes or the mass,” Burkholder said. “We’ll be able to give you more information in the next couple days.”

Burkholder spoke during a somber news conference attended by Chiefs coach Andy Reid, general manager John Dorsey, team president Mark Donovan and chairman Clark Hunt. Berry issued a statement in which he said he was “in shock” but promised to battle the illness.

“I understand that right now I have to concentrate on a new opponent,” he said. “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.”

The 25-year-old Berry, an All-Pro in 2013, began feeling discomfort during Thursday night’s loss in Oakland. He was examined by team physicians Cris Barnthouse and Michael Monaco, and they recommended further tests. The mass on the right side of his chest was discovered Friday night.

Berry underwent more tests, including a CT scan and blood work, over the weekend. He met with the team on Monday morning, shortly before flying to Atlanta for a consultation with Dr. Christopher Flowers, an associate professor at Emory and a leading expert in lymphoma.

Berry has no history of cancer, Burkholder said, and a routine physical over the summer came back clean. In fact, Berry is considered one of the healthiest players on the team, usually absent from the locker room during periods of media availability because he is in the training room.

“He had an opportunity to address the team and feel their love and support, which I think is crucial,” Reid said. “When you get in these situations, you hunker down and battle for your life, which is what you do. You have to be in a certain frame of mind, have certain support to back you up, and Eric has that with his family and also the Chiefs.”

Berry, who grew up near Atlanta, is expected to be evaluated over the next few days. The Chiefs (7-3) will head into a pivotal AFC West showdown with Denver on Sunday night without him.

Berry was the fifth-overall pick in the 2010 draft, and made an impact almost from the start, earning Pro Bowl honors his rookie season. He missed nearly all of his second year after tearing a ligament in his knee, but returned to start every game the following season. He was voted All-Pro last season after tallying 31⁄2 sacks, recording three interceptions and scoring two touchdowns. He also recovered two fumbles while making 81 tackles.

MALLETT STATUS UNCLEAR: At Houston, Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett is being evaluated for an undisclosed injury and coach Bill O’Brien said Monday more about his status will be known later this week.

O’Brien wouldn’t say what the injury was amid reports Mallett has a torn pectoral muscle. O’Brien answered question after question about the quarterback with some variation of: “He’s still being evaluated and we’ll have more to report toward the end of the week.”

“I’m trying to get ready for Tennessee so if there’s Tennessee questions then — we’re moving on to Tennessee,” he said.

Mallett was solid in his first career start in a win over Cleveland on Nov. 16, but he routinely overthrew receivers in a loss to the Bengals on Sunday.

If he can’t play Sunday against Tennessee, the Texans will likely go back to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was benched for Mallett during the bye after Houston started the season 4-5. The only other quarterback on the roster is Tom Savage, a rookie who was taken in the fourth round of the draft.

Mallett was listed on the injury report last week with a chest injury but did not miss practice time. Teammates said they knew something was wrong during the game, but didn’t know what the problem was.