Bills general manager Doug Whaley is more eager to see Jairus Byrd make his season debut this weekend, than to try to project the two-time Pro Bowl safety’s future in Buffalo.
Whaley told The Associated Press on Thursday that while he is not actively shopping Byrd, the Bills would listen to offers if another team called.
"Our focus right now is Jairus getting on the field and playing the best he can for the Buffalo Bills," Whaley said. "We are not actively on the phone hammering out trying to look for a trade. By the same token, (team president) Russ Brandon would listen if someone wanted to trade.
"So if the phone rings, we’re going to listen. But that doesn’t mean we’re out trying to trade."
Whaley stressed the same rule applies to any player on the roster with the NFL trading deadline approaching Oct. 29.
As for Byrd’s future, Whaley didn’t entirely rule out the possibility of the Bills re-signing the fifth-year player once his one-year franchise tag expires after this season.
"Absolutely, I mean there’s always a possibility," Whaley said. "It’s one of those things where you can never say never. Will he be on the team? We hope so. We’re not sure, but we’re going to do everything that’s best for the Buffalo Bills in the future."
The immediate future for Whaley is Byrd preparing to make his long-awaited season debut on Sunday, when the Bills (2-3) host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-2).
Byrd is set to play after he missed the entire offseason because of a contract dispute, and the first five games of the season because of plantar fasciitis in both feet.
"We’re very much excited for him to get back out there," Whaley said. "It’s going to help our defense. It’s going to help our offense. It’s going to help our team."
Byrd has the potential to be a significant difference maker, which is a reason the Bills made a one-year $6.9 million franchise-tag tender in March to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Though the move allowed the Bills to retain Byrd’s rights, it led to a stalemate in contact negotiations during which the two sides were unable to reach a long-term deal before a July 15 deadline. Byrd didn’t report to the team until he finally accepted the one-year contract Aug. 21.
That didn’t mean he was ready to play. Byrd has spent the past seven weeks being treated for the foot condition that had nagged him since last season.
Whaley said the team has been impressed with how Byrd has handled himself throughout his rehabilitation, which has included the player spending extra time on the field following practice.
On another topic, Whaley was encouraged by the progress rookie quarterback EJ Manuel showed in his first five starts before being sideline indefinitely by a sprained right knee in a 37-24 loss to Cleveland last week.
"Obviously, you want him to go out there and take the live reps, but he’s doing a good job," Manuel said. "Are we discouraged? More for the kid, because he was growing and learning."
The first-round pick out of Florida State was off to inconsistent start before being injured. He completed 85 of 150 attempts for 985 yards passing with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
"In any rookie quarterback, you’re going to have some bumps in the road," Whaley said.
Manuel will continue developing from a mental perspective by traveling with the team and watching games from the coaches’ box.
"Yes, we do think there’s time and a combination of learning that can go on off the field," Whaley said, "and off the field that we think will benefit this guy down the road."
NOTE: WR Stevie Johnson’s status remains uncertain for Sunday’s game. He’s bothered by a back injury and also excused by the team following a death in his family. Coach Doug Marrone said Johnson is in his native Oakland, Calif., and not expected to rejoin the team until after practice Friday.