Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Byrd, who had offseason back surgery, has been taken off of the Saints’ physically unable to perform list, allowing him to join practice. He participated in individual drills, something he was unable to do during offseason practices and minicamp.
The acquisition of Byrd, who was named to the Pro Bowl while with Buffalo last season, was one of New Orleans’ most significant moves in free agency. Coach Sean Payton was pleased to see him ready to join practice within the first week of training camp.
”I am glad we did the procedure when we did rather than try to get through the season in a maintenance mode,” Payton said. ”I know he feels better and yet we still have to be smart. We have a lot of time and a lot of things that we have to do and a lot of things that he has to be able to catch up on.”
Byrd, who was named to the Pro Bowl last season, signed a six-year, $56 million contract with New Orleans this offseason. He’ll replace Malcolm Jenkins, who left for Philadelphia in free agency, and the Saints hope Byrd will help New Orleans defense produce more turnovers.
Byrd spent the first five years of his NFL career with the Buffalo Bills, during which he grabbed 22 interceptions and twice led the AFC in that category.
”I just want to be an impact player,” Byrd said after Tuesday’s practice. ”That’s what I strive to be, and takeaways are part of that.”
Payton said Byrd also will be in the mix to return punts, something he did regularly in college at Oregon.
Byrd has declined to go into detail about his back procedure, but said that he viewed it as ”something that needed to be taken care of.”
Byrd said it was hard to miss as much on-field work as he did in the offseason, but stressed that he appreciated the value of patient, careful rehabilitation.
”Obviously it’s been frustrating, but I know it’s something that I need to do,” Byrd said. ”You don’t want to rush things and have a setback and that messes things up.”