It's been a trying process at times for Jairus Byrd. After signing a one-year franchise player contract a plantar fasciitis condition in both feet kept the safety out of the first five games. This Sunday however, Byrd will be testing himself on the playing field as he returns to the lineup in Buffalo's secondary.
"A lot of excitement," said Byrd when asked to describe his emotions this week. "This is what I always wanted to do anywhere, from day one. A lot of people didn't believe me, but now we're here, and now I finally get to go play, and I'm excited."
Buffalo's head coach shared in Byrd's enthusiasm knowing what the safety can bring to the team's defensive backfield.
"I'm really excited to see him back out there," said Doug Marrone. "We're working him in different things going forward. He looked better and better."
Byrd was more than aware of the naysayers that questioned the severity of the condition with his feet and his lack of availability through the first five games. The veteran safety chose from the beginning to let his play do the talking when he returns.
"I understand that's part of this game," he said. "That's a part of the NFL, people are going to critique and give their opinion, and I'm fine with that. I know what I stand for. I'm confident in myself and it is what it is. I'm just going to give it all I got. I understand the position that I'm in due to my injury, I have a lot to catch up. I'm just going to give effort. Wherever I can help the team, that's where I'm going to go."
Marrone stated his firm belief that Byrd is focused on his preparation and performance, and not on how things played out this offseason with respect to contract negotiations.
"I have no questions whatsoever on that," said Marrone. "I don't think his mind was anywhere else outside of getting himself better. He would be better at answering that question, but from my perspective what I saw was a player coming back and the kid is working hard to get back on that field and that's what I saw. I never saw anything else except him working on the injury."
Byrd was ready to return to the defensive lineup last week for the team's Thursday night game in Cleveland, but Marrone chose to keep him inactive for the game. The safety wanted to play, but was satisified with Marrone's explanation of his decision.
"When he explained it to me, that's one thing I will give Coach Marrone, he took me aside and explained everything to me his thought process," said Byrd. "Hats off to him for that. I understood, after he explained it to me. I'm a competitor, I want to be out there, but I understand."
Byrd's role could be anywhere from a full-time starting safety to a subpackage player in Mike Pettine's defensive scheme Sunday against Cincinnati. Buffalo has a lot of moving parts in their secondary with Stephon Gilmore and Ron Brooks returning to the practice setting on a limited basis.
"Depending on the personnel that is in the game he can easily be out there on the field jogging out there with the first unit," said Marrone. "But we expect him to be able to play."
Byrd no matter his role is just happy he's going to be able to contribute, and with an offense that has a pair of talented pass catching tight ends, the safety's presence in the lineup will be welcomed.
"We've just got to win games now, it's all about winning games," said Byrd. "I just want to help the team win. I've been with these guys for a long time. My four years have been some tough times. I'm on board, I just want to win, we've got to win."