METAIRIE, La. If there was any skepticism brewing about the health of New Orleans Saints safety Jairus Byrd, it's now safe to say it's gone, thanks in large part to a bruising collision with running back Mark Ingram just moments into the first live team session of Tuesday's practice.
Byrd, who, before Tuesday, had yet to participate in any full-contact activities since undergoing offseason back surgery, was finally cleared late Monday to return to practice without any contact limitations.That, head coach Sean Payton said, was the last hurdle that remained for Byrd after beginning training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
'He's pretty sharp, so I think mentally he's been on top of everything with the meetings and since he's been back on the field (since being activated from the PUP on July 29),' Payton said.'But now it gives him the ability to play and he'll play this weekend (at Indianapolis).'
Byrd showed no hesitation when he initiated the collision with Ingram, which put the running back on the ground. The hit, which drew an emphatic reaction from several Saints, including Ingram, signaled Byrd is ready to make his presence felt on the gridiron.
'Yeah, it definitely felt good to finally get that contact out of the way and just get back into the swing of things,' said Byrd, a former Buffalo Bill who signed a six-year, $90 million deal with the Saints in March. 'Now, it's just looking ahead to what we have to get accomplished in this game and the long road we have ahead this season.'
Despite a long rehab that kept him out of the Saints' entire offseason program, Byrd said he never grew disillusioned with the process. One of the hardest things, he said, was just remaining patient.
'You see everything moving ahead, guys are practicing, running around, conditioning, hitting, doing the bulk of what football is,' he said.'It's that journey, and a lot of time coach talks about 'enjoy the journey,' and that's part of it.
'Camp, no one really likes it, but it's part of the journey and seeing the guys go through that and not being able to do it was hard.'
Byrd instead used the time to familiarize himself with Rob Ryan's complex schemes, many of which employ three safeties.It's a defensive philosophy that's gained popularity in recent years, and one that Byrd is quite familiar with.
'I know back in Buffalo, coach (Mike) Pettine, who's with the (Cleveland) Browns now, implemented that a lot that,' he said.'It was the first time I really saw that a lot. He does that a lot and obviously it's very successful.'
Byrd's return only adds more depth to a position that's already one of the team's strongest.
Still, developing a cohesive bond with the rest of the unit, he said, will take time. How much? Well, that remains to be seen.
'Coach (Rob) Ryan does a great job of getting players in position to make plays. I've said that before,' he said. 'But it's up to us to go out and make the plays and do the things we need to do. Each person is different in what they like to do, where they like to see things and how they see things, so as long as we get together and study as a unit we can be a good as we want to be.'
INJURYNOTES: Wide receiver Brandin Cooks still has a fever associated with a stomach virus that caused him to miss a second consecutive day of practice.Payton said he doesn't imagine Cooks will miss much more time. ...Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis, Patrick Robinson, Terrence Frederick and Rod Sweeting did not participate in practice. The group did, however, do some light running and agility drills on the side ... Cornerback Champ Bailey was in pads but did not participate in team drills, working only briefly during walkthroughs and individual drills. ...Offensive lineman Ben Grubbs, who left practice early on Monday, was not present on Tuesday. Grubbs recently returned after missing more than a week with a lower back injury. ... Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks left practice early for the second day in a row. He participated in walkthroughs, but then removed his pads and rode a stationary bike momentarily before leaving. ... Linebacker Khairi Fortt was present but did not practice. ... Wide receiver Andy Tanner was not present.