Safety Jarius Byrd made his practice debut with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday after off season back surgery.
Byrd will be eased back into the mix, not participating in full team drills yet, however the three time Pro Bowler appears on schedule to be fully healed in plenty of time for the regular season.
Most of you will remember how aggressively the Saints courted Byrd, landing him the first day of free agency, signing him to a six year, $54 million contract to assist in the Saints quest to field a secondary capable of rivaling any other team in the NFL.
Byrd’s sweet ability of forcing turnovers, really got the Saints hot for the Safety, being as this area ranks as their No. 1 priority this season. His 22 interceptions (in addition to forcing 11 fumbles) over the past five seasons with the Buffalo Bills rank second among all NFL players.
So obviously Byrd has quite the “tall order” to fill, right? However, Byrd has said he’s not feeling the pressure to be a “savior” or the need to live up to his lofty contract.
“This is just like any other year,” Byrd said. “I’m approaching it as, ‘How can I get better? How can I help this team?’ Because it’s not about me, it’s about this team.”
Both Coach Sean Payton and Byrd, have been vague in the past about the details of the surgery, only describing it as “an issue that needed to be taken care of.”
Payton has stressed that it wasn’t a major issue and that surgery would only have been done during offseason.
“I’m glad we did the surgery when we did rather than try to get through this season in a maintenance mode,” Payton said. “He feels better, but we still have to be smart here. We’e got plenty of time, a lot of things that we’ve got to do and a lot of things that
he’s got to be able to catch up on. But he’s been attentive in all the meetings.”
Byrd only sat out for full team drills on Tuesday, participating in everything else even fielded some punts during special teams work.
While this is something Byrd did in college and could potentially do with the Saints, its more likely he be used as an option on fair catches.
After practice Tuesday, Byrd was the last player on the field making up for lost time, catching passes one handed from the JUGS machine from his knees.
“I thank God I’m back and moving forward, Byrd said.
“It’s really good to have him out here,” Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “He needs to work on the field and the reps with his team. But that’ll come, he’s a real sharp guy.”