His wildly entertaining rookie season was brought to a premature close as a torn labrum in his hip landed him on injured reserve Dec. 23. Free safety Jairus Byrd was naturally disappointed to miss the last two games of the season, but one of the league leaders in interceptions in 2009 is already feeling better just two weeks removed from surgery.
Byrd is in New York City today to have his stitches removed from his hip.
"Everything is going really well right now," Byrd told Buffalobills.com. "I'll get my stitches taken out and then they're going to look at me again and make sure everything is going well and I'll do a little rehab there and get ready for the offseason by getting with a (physical) therapist to start getting my strength back."
With about a four month rehab on tap for Byrd it's unclear at this point if he'll be a full scale participant at the beginning of the team's offseason conditioning program, which usually begins in late March. Right now Byrd is not concerning himself with deadlines, only on improving each day.
"I'm just trying to take it slow and make sure I don't push anything because I have time to get it right," said Byrd.
That wasn't the case during the season when Byrd played the better part of eight games with hip and groin injuries. Though he would only participate in practice during game weeks on a limited basis, it did not provide nearly enough rest to allow his ailments to properly heal before the next game.
Byrd said he played the back half of the regular season schedule at about 70 percent health. By compensating for his hip injury he was re-injuring his groin again and again, which had just been repaired last summer with sports-hernia surgery. Just two weeks removed from hip surgery however, the free safety can already feel a difference.
"The hip problem was causing extra strain on my groin," Byrd explained. "The surgery alleviated a lot of the pain I was dealing with. There still might be some stuff I might need to get taken care of with my groin, but that stuff is minute in comparison to what had to be done with the hip to prevent the recurring injury. By taking care of the hip I've pretty much eliminated any further problems with the groin."
Byrd says his walking has improved significantly over the past week and aside from some residual swelling feels a lot better than he did during the season.
What the surgery also did was provide Byrd with a far greater range of motion in his hip than he had previously. As a result the physical therapy that lies ahead will be extensive.
"Range of motion, leg lifts lying on my side. I have a lot of different things to do to make sure everything is working properly," said Byrd. "Now that I have more range in my hip I have to make sure I work that full range. I'm going to be weaker because I haven't had that kind of range before, so I have to take it slowly and build that strength up first so I don't cause more injury."
With time on his side Byrd can afford to take the slow and steady approach so he can avoid some of the physical setbacks that kept him from competing in top form in his first NFL season. It's a scary thought in light of his production in 2009 when he tied for the league lead in interceptions with nine.
Finishing second for the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award to Houston LB Brian Cushing, Byrd is again up against Cushing and four other candidates for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year honors.
"Cushing, I like that guy a lot," said Byrd. "He's a good guy. I don't talk to him much, but he came up and talked to me when they played us up here. He's a great guy and he deserved it. His numbers were phenomenal so I was happy for him."
But Byrd won't be paying much attention to postseason awards. His focus is on getting his body ready for the 2010 campaign.
"I'll be doing everything I can to get it right," said Byrd. "I'll do what I need to do."