With less than two months until he is supposed to begin his second NFL season, Eric Berry is a combination of tuned in and tuned out.
Well before the league's prolonged lockout even started, the former University of Tennessee safety stopped listening to the seemingly endless reports that it was already close to an end. But, despite taking a back seat to some of the NFL players' more active, veteran representatives, Berry said that he wants to know every last detail of the agreement — whenever it comes to fruition.
"I want to know what changed, I want to know what investments we can make within the league that they're going to match, what we're going to be doing in the offseason," Berry said Monday at an autograph session with his former teammate and close friend, Inky Johnson.
"I want to know all of that stuff, what benefits we're going to have. I need it all. I want it all I want to take full advantage of it. That's just how I am."
Berry, who was recently named to the NFL's 100 Greatest Players list after a rookie season that ended with a trip to the Pro Bowl, said he put away some extra money before the lockout just to be safe. Of course, that's not the most difficult thing to do for a player like Berry, who is guaranteed $34 million over the next six years and holds a lucrative endorsement deal with adidas.
But he also walks the walk.
Berry said he still drives a 2006 Chevy Tahoe, "his baby," when he's back in Kansas City.
"I don't really need too much. I'm just an old country boy from right outside Atlanta," Berry said. "As long as I got a way of transportation and I got my family, I'm cool with a roof over my head."
Because last year was a whirlwind as a rookie, and because this year has been affected by the lockout, Berry doesn't know what a "normal" offseason feels like.
He's had no trouble passing the time.
Before Monday's book signing in Halls with Johnson, who recently released his autobiography "Inky," Berry joined Johnson for a May signing in Kansas City. Last week, his new adidas commercial, which took two exhausting days to film, aired on ESPN.
Berry also hosted five football camps for youths all throughout the country, a tour that included a stop in Knoxville last month.
Tack on the fact that Berry has been able to spend significantly more time with his family during this offseason compared to the last, and the lockout could very well have been a blessing in disguise for him personally.
"I didn't have it planned out," Berry said. "I guess that flexible schedule we had this year allowed me to do that, so I'm thankful for that."
When he spoke at his Knoxville camp last month, Berry said he constantly thought about how his life would differ if he had returned for his senior season with the Vols. It's uncertain how much his presence would have affected UT's win-loss record, but it's all but certain he wouldn't have anywhere near as cushy of a contract.
A new rookie-wage scale has been one of the major sticking points during the lockout. With the sides reportedly coming to an agreement on it last week, it's all but assured that contracts like the one that made Berry the highest-paid safety in NFL history won't be possible in the near future.
It's yet another example of good timing on Berry's part.
"I don't know how it happened," Berry said. "No telling what could have happened, but at the same time, I'm thankful for the players that came before me and laid the foundation."