Saints safety Jairus Byrd to return punts?

The New Orleans fan base finally got to see their top free agent acquisition in action Saturday night against the Indianapolis Colts: safety Jairus Byrd made his first appearance in Black and Gold after recovering from off-season back surgery, appearing with the first team.

Derick E. Hingle / USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans fan base finally got to see their top free agent acquisition in action Saturday night against the Indianapolis Colts: safety Jairus Byrd made his first appearance in Black and Gold after recovering from off-season back surgery, appearing with the first team.

Byrd is encouraged by not just his own progress, but at how the Saints defense as a whole is evolving into an opportunistic unit adept at creating turnovers.  

"We're definitely on it now," Byrd said. "It's coming right out right now. Guys are aware of the emphasis to strip it out. When the ball's in the air, we're going for it."

The Saints forced the Colts to commit 3 turnovers Saturday night. Byrd has advised his teammates that takeaways are contagious. 

"It creates great habits, as far as punching the ball out and getting the ball," Byrd said. "At the end of the day, no matter who's giving the ball to you, it's a practice or a habit to strip the ball."

Byrd's performance versus the Colts was brief, but it showed head coach Sean Payton what he needed to see. 

"He had really good instincts, and he has good speed," Payton said. "When you put a first step with that, he finds himself around the play a lot."

Speaking of speed, Byrd may find himself using his wheels to field punt returns on occasion.  

"Yes, I definitely could see myself in that role," Byrd said. "I'm preparing for whatever they put me in. That could be it. I don't know. I'm just preparing myself for if I have to return it, I have to return it. Catching it, securing it and getting the ball back to the offense would be what I'd do. I just want to be ready for whatever they want me to do."

Byrd isn't giving up on his traditional role though, still working out by trying to catch one-handed balls out of the jugs machine, in preparation for another one-handed interception. 

"Pretty much I feel I have to be able to catch the ball just as well as a receiver does," Byrd explained. "The ball's in the air, it's just as much mine as theirs. That's the approach. You never know when it's going to come. I have to have as good hands as they do to catch balls."