Saturday, October 31, 2009
A few more words on Byrd
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Even with all of the information and quotes I tried to cram into Wednesday's magnum opus on Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd, some material didn't make the cut. I had to stop writing at some point.
And as much as I'd love to run this post on Thanksgiving, I will settle for Halloween to deliver some leftover Byrd.
For example, you might be surprised to read that Byrd, who is known as a prolific interceptor, never has returned one for a touchdown.
"I know Jairus wants to get into the end zone," said Byrd's father, Gill, a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback for the San Diego Chargers.
Jairus Byrd almost certainly would have broken Oregon's record for career interceptions had he not entered the draft a year early. He finished with 17, one behind George Shaw, who set the Ducks standard in the 1950s.
But Jairus Byrd didn't return any for a score, and hasn't been able to bring back and of his five so far with the Bills.
"I know that's what all defensive players should focus on, scoring," Gill Byrd said. "That's why you see when he gets the ball he's headed upfield. You have to have it in your mind, 'When I get the ball, I'm going to score, or put the offense in position to where they'll have a short field to work with.'"
Jairus Byrd came close to scoring in the first quarter of Sunday's victory over the Carolina Panthers. He intercepted a Jake Delhomme pass and brought it back 37 yards to the 7-yard line.
"I definitely would love that when the day comes that I get my first touchdown," Jairus Byrd said. "Every time you get it you want to score. I'm just focused on getting the ball in the offense's hands, but that's what I want to do.
"I know that eventually will come one day. Hopefully, I'm blessed with more and can keep trying."
For the record, Gill Byrd took two interceptions all the way back in his career. They came in the same season, and one went 99 yards.
"It wasn't like I was a touchdown artist," Gill Byrd said. "Hopefully, some of the Aeneas Williams will rub off on him."
Williams was a close friend of Gill Byrd who has mentored Jairus since high school. Williams, an eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, scored 13 touchdowns.
I asked Williams what it takes to be a successful ball hawk, and he was adamant it comes down to following through on the practice field.
"Defensive backs aren't always cognizant of making plays," Williams explained. "Yes, there's an element of the ball bouncing, but it also has to do with guys being around the ball because they're comfortable when the ball's in the air.
"It's a mentality they develop on a daily basis. You would think pros do this all the time, but I'm a living witness. I saw very few guys actually practice like that, catch balls and hawk the ball in practice. It was an uncommon occurrence.
"Guys would say, 'I don't want to get hurt,' or 'I'll get that in a game.' They think all of a sudden in a game they can turn it on. The great ones practice that on a daily basis."