Fair warning: Berry no longer playing hurt

Tennessee's superstar says shoulder 'back to 120 percent'

Eric Berry

Knoxville Magazine

Eric Berry

Bad news, Western Kentucky. You too, UCLA, and the rest. Eric Berry is finally healthy.

Perhaps it won't make any difference. Berry, Tennessee's All-American predator, never really pulled any punches even when he was playing with a bum shoulder the past two seasons.

"My shoulder,'' Berry said Tuesday, "is back to 120 percent.

"It hasn't felt this good, I want to say, since I was 12 and hurt it.''

The junior strong safety had corrective surgery in the offseason.

Not that he ever appeared to be less than 120 percent while he was assassinating receivers and running backs and compiling an interception highlight reel.

But after the most physical preseason camp of his career, Berry is extremely confident in his rebuilt shoulder.

So is first-year head coach Lane Kiffin.

"Eric has played so well for two years and that was really not a concern, him being physical,'' Kiffin said.

"We know that's going to be the case. That's how he is.''

Berry tested his shoulder in UT's first scrimmage, laying the wood to running back Montario Hardesty. He admitted holding his breath but the shoulder felt great.

Thus, Berry is easing into a guided-missile frame of mind as UT approaches the season opener.

"It's been hit on every angle, and hits that would have probably hurt me last year,'' he said. "But now it's perfect.''

So perfect he'll be looking for victims on special-teams assignments. Berry will line up on both kickoff and punt coverage.

That might seem risky to some, exposing a consensus All-American to the violence of special-teams mayhem.

Berry and Kiffin, however, agree that UT should have its best tackler on the field in a volatile scenario when big plays can me made - positive and negative.

"As a defensive player, we specialize in chasing people,'' Berry said. "That's what we do.

"Defense is pretty much an organized game of freeze-tag. All we do is chase people. If you look out there Saturday, you'll see a lot of starters on kickoff and punt coverage.''

You'll also see a lot of youngsters out there.

The Vols have a handful of true freshmen on the defensive depth chart.

Berry calls them the "young puppies,'' but he remembers being one himself not so long ago. It was only two years ago he started in his first college game, at California.

"They're not really cocky,'' he said, "but I would say they're confident ... and having that confidence as a defensive back is a very good thing.

"You don't want to come in here thinking you can't do something as a freshman because (the opponents) are just going to take advantage of you.

"There's no pity in college.''

Berry has certainly never showed any.

And now he has two good shoulders.

Mike Strange covers Tennessee football. He can be reached at 865-342-6276.

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Comments » 89

dlobh writes:

I'm not sure I agree with Berry playing kickoff and punt coverages. Sure he's the best tackler, but can nobody else on the team tackle well enough to play special teams? If he gets hurt, you're kicking yourself big time.

BleedOrangeForever writes:

The more he plays, the more he is going to make highlight reels!

jphilli5#240013 writes:

Its the time of his life. The best strength and conditioning of his life. I think he should play every down he is able to play. The game was invented for this guy. Stand back and watch his dust. He must tumble with the dice and riches and fame await this type of perfection in action. it is part of God's plan sure as the boa constrictor. God creates in our world and Berry "bees" HIS creation!

imw8n4u writes:

I don't really like the idea of putting him out there on kick off and punt coverage, too many people head hunting, looking for the big kill. What would be bigger than taking out EB? Personally I'd let Rogan and Jackson handle this duty, except maybe against UF or something. But that's what we pay them the big bucks for, in Kiffin we trust.

SHAWVOL writes:

ready for some amazing hits wonder who are going to victims this year i hope he lets loose on florida

Waldorf writes:

Eric Berry on the kickoff team?

He'll kill someone.

Down_The_Field writes:

dang, this guy's got it all. an all american smile and a hit that would knock pluto back into the solar system.

i want to see another NO-SHAWN hit and another tim dweebo pic six.

VOLFORLIFE writes:

in response to Waldorf:

Eric Berry on the kickoff team?

He'll kill someone.

Yeah, he just might.

GO VOLS!!!
JUGHEAD

txvolsfan writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Good one WD
TXVOLSFAN

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to Waldorf:

Eric Berry on the kickoff team?

He'll kill someone.

maybe the 3rd game?!

amstelman writes:

The best where the best is needed. Kiffball!!

BleedOrangeForever writes:

I hope he circumsises Teblow.

AceVentura writes:

The Predator sounds like a good nickname. I can see it on a poster. Eric "The Predator" Berry. That's pretty sexy if you ask me.

Waldorf writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I dunno about the returner, but one of the front line guys better have it.

I'll be interested to see if they use him more as an outside safety or put him in the middle of the field.

The person that should be scared is a punt returner. If the gunners miss him and he gets a clean shot on a guy standing there...call the ambulance.

volnavy4life writes:

"I pitty the fool"....who gets drilled as an EB highlight.

BA Baracus for you young folks

Give_Him_6_Holloway writes:

in response to dlobh:

I'm not sure I agree with Berry playing kickoff and punt coverages. Sure he's the best tackler, but can nobody else on the team tackle well enough to play special teams? If he gets hurt, you're kicking yourself big time.

The best teams play their best players on special teams. Florida does it and Bama does it. Are we to let the best defensive talent in UT history sit on the sidelines while Bama and Florida's best athletes are returning punts and kicks? Kiffen is sending the right message to his team and every recruit in the country. Come to Tennessee. If you are the best there is, you will get to play and make your mark towards NFL stardom. Nice.

KINGKONG writes:

lets chant s-a-c-r-y b-e-r-r-y he reminds me of dale carter,steve atwater,ronnie lot, jack tatum,last but not least= ed reed

lomas98 writes:

in response to imw8n4u:

I don't really like the idea of putting him out there on kick off and punt coverage, too many people head hunting, looking for the big kill. What would be bigger than taking out EB? Personally I'd let Rogan and Jackson handle this duty, except maybe against UF or something. But that's what we pay them the big bucks for, in Kiffin we trust.

Rogan and Jackson will probably be out there too alongside Berry.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

He is all that,but at this close to kickoff let's think Team.

And about WKU Hilltoppers.

jst4tdyvols writes:

RELEASE THE BEAST.GO VOLS

dvhill100 writes:

"My prediction? PAIN." Clubber Lange

4114 writes:

Berry for Heisman.. Got to have your best overall player on the field as much as possible.
He will make plays that the other Vols probally would not have made.
Great players make great plays.

acolvol#632266 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey Witch, are you going to off the disabled list by Saturday? Hope you are feeling better.

murrayvol writes:

in response to dlobh:

I'm not sure I agree with Berry playing kickoff and punt coverages. Sure he's the best tackler, but can nobody else on the team tackle well enough to play special teams? If he gets hurt, you're kicking yourself big time.

Berry will be doing the lion's share of the hurtin'.

acolvol#632266 writes:

in response to Rok_Etop:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Cldvols1 writes:

Oh man, like a kid at Christmas I can hardly wait! This season is gonna be a big turnaround for the Vols, I can sense it:) Go Vols!!!

OldSmokey writes:

Berry and Kiffin, however, agree that UT should have its best tackler on the field in a volatile scenario when big plays can me made - positive and negative.

I think that should be "be" made.

AllVol1 writes:

in response to volzone919:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Here is a stat. Berry's first game in the SWAMP: 94 yard interception of Tebow--taken to the house! On national TV.
Even Tebow tipped his hat to the best defensive player in the country this summer.

teampenny#658108 writes:

in response to Give_Him_6_Holloway:

The best teams play their best players on special teams. Florida does it and Bama does it. Are we to let the best defensive talent in UT history sit on the sidelines while Bama and Florida's best athletes are returning punts and kicks? Kiffen is sending the right message to his team and every recruit in the country. Come to Tennessee. If you are the best there is, you will get to play and make your mark towards NFL stardom. Nice.

A lot of Vol fans talk about the NFL. Would be better if our players won in the SEC. Go Vols

99PairsOfJortsOnTheWall writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Good one DC, but you are still queer. BTW, Berry doesn't chase, he intercepts. Heck, you ought to know that he's nightmare fuel for a ghey-durr.

Volunteer-Varmint writes:

I hope EB hits Tebow so hard his great grandma feels the jolt! Lets play some FOOTBALL!!!!!!!

Go Vols

PMC2726 writes:

Every time we've punted or kicked off the last 3-4 years I cringe knowing that it could come all the way back....read: especially against Georgia and Florida. We MUST have our best players on the field at all times. It's FOOTBALL, not patsy ball. If Berry is worried about getting hurt, he should go pro NOW. Otherwise, you make him play balls-to-the wall. Isn't that what a true Heisman candidate should be doing? I love the folks on here who want Berry running the Wildcat (with a target on his chest) but think that special teams is too risky...hello?!?!?

utvolz#637682 writes:

in response to BleedOrangeForever:

I hope he circumsises Teblow.

Pull those panties down and snip away EB!

ctownvol writes:

in response to KINGKONG:

lets chant s-a-c-r-y b-e-r-r-y he reminds me of dale carter,steve atwater,ronnie lot, jack tatum,last but not least= ed reed

Having played basketball and football with Dale Carter in high school, and having watched EB since his junior year at Creekside I can say that EB is better than Dale. And as any Vol fan knows that is saying a lot. Dale was an amazing athelete. Eric Berry is just that good.

Healeystyle writes:

Yes, Predator is a great nickname for EB. Now all we need is a clip of a scared Tebag screaming "Get to the choppa" as 14 is chasing him and Urban Creyer through the jungle.

sitinhere writes:

in response to Volunteer-Varmint:

I hope EB hits Tebow so hard his great grandma feels the jolt! Lets play some FOOTBALL!!!!!!!

Go Vols

I never want to see a player hurt but I would love to see EB hit Tebow and Tebow have a "NOSHOW" Moreno moment. EB=Cryptonite

bluetick writes:

Good call putting him on the coverage teams like that. Hope nobody takes a cheap shot on him. When is Saturday?

SavTnVol writes:

OMG, you mean that EB hasn't been 100% the past two years????? WOW.....OMG WOW....Just imagine what he can do healthy.......BE AFRAID,BE VERY AFRAID

Docrok writes:

in response to volzone919:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Actually for the mentally retarded on the Board Eric Berry had great stats in both games! Maybe not the rest of the team but Berry yes! A pick 6 a sack and several tackles for loss! Individually Berry was great against the Gators! However since its a team sport and the rest of the team laid down TN looked awful! But rest assured as your screen name says on Sept 19, it will all be laid to rest!!

Volin68 writes:

Yo! EB.....BRING THE RAIN!!!!! WHOOOOOAAA!

CrimsonTidalWave writes:

Is he ready to get smoked by Julio again this year???

vol88 writes:

Oh, my. This is the most motivational story for this Vol fan that has been written in the past 5 years. Can't wait 'til 12:21, Saturday!

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to volzone919:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, I remember when I had my first beer...

ozoney#235138 writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

LOL nice....

gnm53108 writes:

in response to illinoisvolfan:

Yeah, I remember when I had my first beer...

Of the day?

Huttdawg100 writes:

EB is about to make his appearance on ESPN's First Take... The kid has Heisman written all over him.

ctownvol writes:

EB will be on ESPN First Take in a few minutes.

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to volzone919:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Just how many players have a pick six against Tebow? My guess is Berry, once again, in a class by himself. But then again, so are you zz. You probably hold the KNS record for most user names (getting banned so often has that effect).

cloudodust writes:

News Flash from Denver : Moreno's still slumped over on the sidelines...Funny thing about that particular hit : Moreno got the cocky knocked out him, so in essence, Berry did him a favor. BTW, I think we see EB lined up wide a time or two against WK. JMO

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to gnm53108:

Of the day?

No, but that's more creative than anything zz could say.

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