Byrd grounded despite crippled secondary

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
4:33
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Injuries have pummeled the Buffalo Bills' secondary early this season, but safety Jairus Byrd, who has plantar fasciitis, said Wednesday that he doesn't feel any added pressure to return.

"No," Byrd said. "I mean, obviously I don't want to see them do bad. I've said that since day one. But me going out there less than 100 percent isn't going to help the case either. It's like, I can't do anything about it. That's the tough part about it, really. Honestly."

In an interview with WGR 550 in Buffalo on Wednesday morning, Bills CEO Russ Brandon said that injuries have taken the "top four guys" in the Bills' secondary -- according to Brandon, those are Byrd and cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, and Ron Brooks -- out of the mix.

Byrd was involved in a contract dispute with the Bills all offseason that led to him not signing his franchise tender until Aug. 20. Upon reporting to the team, Byrd said he had sore feet, and has not played in the first three games of the season.

Asked if he believes Byrd is reluctant to return because of his contract situation -- he will be a free agent again after the season -- Brandon said that "knowing him as long as I've known him, I don't question that," but added it would be a better question for Byrd.

When Byrd spoke to reporters on Sept. 9, something wasn't adding up. The Pro Bowl safety said that he played with the foot condition last season, but then said he needed to be 100 percent to play this season, which has been his stance the past three weeks.

A reporter pressed Byrd on that point Wednesday.

"It was an issue last year. I was told it was going to get healthy and it just didn't with time. We had the offseason and it didn't get healthy," Byrd said "It is what it is. Now we're here."

The take-away there, it seems, is that Byrd was willing to play with the condition last season, possibly hoping that it would reward him in free agency. But the Bills kept him under their control by naming him their franchise player, and now, reading between the lines with Byrd, he isn't interested in taking that same risk this season by playing injured.

On Sept. 4, prior to the regular season opener, head coach Doug Marrone implied that the decison to return was squarely on Byrd.

"It’s just a matter of one day I think he’s going to wake up and say ‘Hey, I feel great let’s go," Marrone said.

Three weeks later, on Wednesday, Marrone was asked when Byrd might "wake up" and decide he is ready to play.

"I don't want to use words like 'wake up' and things like that, but I would rather say, he's working extremely hard to get back," Marrone said. "Again, I keep going back to that same statement I said, because it's the truth. It's a condition that we haven't been able to get over this one last hurdle. When we get over that one last hurdle, he'll be ready to go."

Later Wednesday, Byrd confirmed that the decision to play is his, and he has yet to pull the trigger.

"Coach [Marrone] is telling the truth," he said. "It's really just a matter of, I'll go to him and I'll say 'let's roll.' It's really like that."

Byrd was listed as doubtful entering the first two regular season contests, but was upgraded to questionable and made the trip to New York last Sunday before being declared inactive.

"It just wasn't ready to go," Byrd said Wednesday.

But at this point, the Bills need him.

"We'd like to get him back as soon as possible, especially with the situation we have in the back end," Brandon said.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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