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Forget Deflategate, Eric Berry Beating Cancer Is the NFL Story to Care About

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IJuly 30, 2015

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The best story going in sports is currently being buried by the PSI of footballs and the alleged destruction of cell phones. 

It's sad, really.

Occasionally, the afternoon soap opera that is the NFL can be more than just a harbinger for ridiculous controversy. Other stories require telling and demand the headlines. This is one of those times.

The news to know today: Eric Berry, a star safety for the Kansas City Chiefs, has returned to the practice field after beating cancer.

The 26-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in December of last year. He missed the team's final five games as he began treatment for the disease, which, according to Mayo Clinic, attacks the immune system and can spread throughout the body. 

Berry fought back and won. He's now resuming his football career. 

The Chiefs announced the news late Tuesday night:

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ESPN.com's Adam Teicher snapped a shot of Berry back on the field for practice Wednesday morning:

Berry's story isn't about deflating footballs or destroying cell phones. There's nothing about cheating, suspensions or punishment. No hot takes. Berry beating cancer and returning to football is simply a feel-good story all humans can relate to on some level or another. 

The disease is as unrelenting as it is wide-reaching. Cancer has affected nearly all of us in some way. Success stories, like Berry's, must always be celebrated. 

Yet sadly, you'd have to do some searching to find the news. Deflategate continues to dominate the headlines. That's true at ESPN, NFL Network, even here at Bleacher Report. 

This reality is not difficult to understand. Tom Brady is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. He's the quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. His four-game suspension is a big deal in the grand scheme of the 2015 NFL season. 

Dec 28, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs fans show their support for safety Eric Berry (29) (not pictured) during the second half against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 19-7. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TO
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

But Berry's recovery and return is important in the grand scheme of life. 

Brady will serve his suspension and return to the Patriots for the final 12 games of the season. Berry was facing a wicked disease capable of stripping him of his career, family and life.

New England will survive. Berry survived. 

At his return press conference Wednesday, Berry admitted he was often scared to go to sleep, fearing he wouldn't wake up:

I’d just be up thinking, scared to go to sleep. Then there would be a point where I would just be like "Forget it, I’m going to sleep. If I don’t wake up, I don’t wake up." The thing about it, just going through it, with the people that’s close to you, you don’t think about material things, you don’t think about things like that. You think about the experiences you have with the people close to you. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. 

According to Teicher, Berry found out he was cancer-free on June 22. He participated Wednesday in a minicamp practice, his first real taste of football since the diagnosis. Saturday marks the official start of training camp. Berry will be in attendance and an active participant.

The Chiefs will likely ease Berry back into football shape. He attacked his cancer and recovery much differently from most patients. Per Pete Sweeney of the team's official site, Berry took intravenous fluids during his chemotherapy sessions to ensure he could continue to work out. In fact, he actually gained a pound of weight during the exhausting process. 

Now, just eight months after starting treatment, Berry is healthy, cancer-free and cleared to play one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. 

That's not just remarkable. It's approaching heroic. 

The shame here is that Berry's inspiring return is stuck deep in the shadow of a controversy months in the making. It's likely going to stay there. But make no mistake, Eric Berry playing football for the Chiefs is the best story to start the 2015 season. 

The video running on loop today will likely continue to be Patriots owner Robert Kraft blasting the NFL, Bill Belichick sidestepping questions or some host reading Brady's prepared statement.

It really should be this.

Zach Kruse covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. 

Follow @zachkruse2

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