The speed and elusiveness Berry showed on a 72-yard interception return for touchdown last Saturday against Mississippi State has revived talk of using him to jazz up a Vol offense that is short on big-play threats.
This led one reporter to ask Chavis if he would cringe at the prospect of watching his superstar defender risk injury on offense. Given Chavis' conservative nature, his answer was downright stunning:
"Not really. You have to live in your hopes and not your fears. If I ever get to the point where I'm afraid of anything, then I'm going to stay at home. I can't wear my wife's dress right now because the size isn't the right size, but if I ever get afraid I'm just going to stay at home and probably start cross-dressing."
Once the laughter subsided, the coordinator continued:
"You've got to do what you need to do to win and be successful. If that (Berry playing offense) is going to help us win, then I'm all for it. Berry's a very, very talented young man. Certainly, he could handle that. If Coach (Fulmer) chooses to do that, I'll be very happy."
Told of Chavis' comments about cross-dressing, head coach Phillip Fulmer was clearly incredulous:
"John Chavis said that?"
Other than the obvious concern about subjecting Eric Berry to a hit that might get him injured, Fulmer said the biggest concern in utilizing the sophomore safety on offense is simply overtaxing him.
"How many plays can he effectively do? So much of it depends on our defense getting off the field," Fulmer said. "If we can hold the other team to somewhere in the 50s, as far as number of plays, then I think he can play on special teams and some on offense."
The head man admitted that he has been hesitant to utilize Berry on offense for fear that "he ends up wearing down in the fourth quarter. You want to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter, and our safety position in particular is not a position where we have good depth right now."
Tennessee's secondary coach shares this concern.
"There's just so many snaps that he has," Larry Slade said. "We have to be very careful about that (not overtaxing him). What you need is about three or four of those guys."
There also is a concern that Berry's impact on defense could suffer if he spends too much practice time working with the offense. As Fulmer put it: "You may get a play on offense but you may give up one on defense if you're not fully prepared."
Seven games into the 2008 season, however, Berry's understanding of the defense should be sufficient to allow him to polish his skills on returns and on offense without losing his edge as a defender.
Slade understands the eagerness of Vol fans to see Berry utilized on offense.
"He's a playmaker," the secondary coach conceded. "In modern football you take those guys and you try to get 'em the football – whether it's on offense or special teams.
"I would say there would be some good things happening. If he was over there, he would find a way to make a football play; I really believe that."
Fulmer must feel the same way because he admitted that Berry has been working on punt and kickoff returns the past couple of weeks, along with "some offensive plays that are not going to require a lot of time away from the defense."
When a reporter asked if UT plans to utilize Berry as a direct-snap tailback or as a receiver, Fulmer grinned smugly.
"I don't know why I would actually say that right here on Tuesday," the coach deadpanned, "but it's a good question."