Aaron Berry says Lions' vacant starting cornerback spot is his to lose

Posted May 4, 2012

Lions third-year cornerback Aaron Berry has a little advice for the hundreds of rookies who went undrafted last weekend but are now getting an opportunity to make a roster in the undrafted free agent market.

"I'd just try to tell those guys that even though you didn't get drafted there's going to be an opportunity out there for you," Berry said. "Just do what you do because it isn't about where you're drafted. There are first-round busts every year and there are guys that are free agents that go to the Pro Bowl."

Berry went undrafted in 2010 but signed a free agent contract with the Lions right after the draft. The Lions were immediately impressed with Berry's speed and physicality and he made the 53-man roster out of training camp.

"I was just hungry," Berry said of his own experience. "I knew what I could do on the field and knew what I'd been through in the past. Everybody makes mistakes and I just wanted to get out there and show that it was about what was on the field and the not the off the field issues."

Berry was suspended a couple times throughout his college career for off-the-field incidents.

He did nothing but impress the Lions during training camp, though, and earned the starting nickel spot his rookie season. He recorded an interception the first game of the 2010 season in Chicago, but later injured his shoulder and was lost for the year.

Berry won the team's third cornerback job again last year, but missed five games because of injury.

"The key for Berry is to stay healthy and strengthen the shoulder," Lions defensive backs and third down package coach Tim Walton said. "That's going to be big for him because he's a heck of a football player.

"I think he's working on that stuff and if he can manage to play some games for us and hang in there, he'll do a great job for us next year."

Berry had offseason shoulder surgery to fix his reoccurring shoulder separations and has added seven pounds to his frame in an attempt to get stronger.

"I'm up to 187 (pounds) now," Berry said "I put on another seven pounds since last year. I came in at 175 pounds last year, I played at 180 and this year I'm 187. I knew I needed to put more weight on my upper body in order for me to play a whole season. It's a physical game. We're playing with grown men out here."

Berry is hoping the extra weight helps him at the line of scrimmage against physical receivers and with tackling bigger running backs. He's also hoping it gives him a leg up for the open starting spot at right cornerback.

"When I'm healthy, I feel like I'm the best player out there and that's the attitude you're supposed to have," Berry said. "The biggest thing for me is just staying healthy and staying on the field and out of that trainers room.

"I'm ready. There was a lot of adversity I faced with that last game and the tweet gone wrong and I just take it as motivation. Being an undrafted free agent, I've been through everything. That's why there's no pressure for me, I'm just going to go continue what I'm doing."

Berry was referencing the Lions' playoff loss to the Saints when Saints quarterback Drew Brees torched the Lions secondary for 466 yards in a 45-28 Saints victory. In that game, Berry dropped two potential interceptions that could have changed the complexion of the game.

"I don't like to make excuses," he said. "I just needed to finish the plays that were out there for me to make. If I make those plays, everyone is talking about how good it is to have Aaron Berry back (from injury), but I didn't make the plays and that makes me work harder. "

Berry then drew headlines with an ill-advised tweet ripping fans for their displeasure in his play after the game.

Berry said he learned a lot from both instances and is now just focused on getting back on the field and competing for a starting spotopposite Chris Houston.

"Everyone looks at this as my third year, but I look at it as my second (year) because my first year I got hurt," he said. "For me to get a full season under my belt (last year) and to go through a little adversity, I feel like I faced everything."

Berry seems to be the favorite at this point to replace Eric Wright, who signed with the Bucs in free agency, but Walton said it's an open competition between Berry, Jacob Lacey and Alphonso Smith, along with rookie draft picks Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green.

"I'll welcome those guys with open arms and show them thedefense and do whatever I can to help them, because in the end, it makes us a better team," Berry said of the rookies. "When I'm healthy, I still feel like I'm the best regardless of who we drafted."