Bills S Byrd following in father's footsteps

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Bills S Byrd following in father's footsteps

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Growing up, Jairus Byrd remembers the days when the new shipment of San Diego Chargers helmets would arrive.

Quick as he could, Byrd would pull one over his tiny head and wobble his top-heavy frame out the door to scamper around pretending to be his father.

``I would just run around with the helmet on for no reason, just throwing up the ball,'' the Buffalo Bills safety said. ``I just had a love for the game, because sons want to be like their dads.''

If many kids aspire to one day play quarterback, the dream was far different for Jairus. He wanted to grow up being a defensive back like his father, Gill Byrd, who established himself as one of the Chargers' premier cornerbacks over a 10-year, two-time Pro Bowl career that ended in 1992.

``When I put that helmet on, I wanted to be just like him,'' Byrd said. ``A DB.''

The family legacy for producing top-tier NFL defensive backs has entered its second generation with Byrd's continuing emergence.

He first burst onto the scene in 2009, when the second-round draft pick out of Oregon set a Bills rookie record with nine interceptions. He's since rounded himself into a more complete player.

This season, Byrd leads Buffalo with four interceptions and three forced fumbles, and is tied for second with 57 tackles. He's particularly developed a knack for making game-changing plays on a 4-6 team that still believes it can make a second-half playoff push. One that resumes at Indianapolis (6-4) Sunday.

In Buffalo's 19-16 win at Arizona last month, Byrd set up the decisive field goal by intercepting John Skelton's pass over the middle on the Cardinals' opening drive of overtime.

On Thursday, Byrd helped seal a 19-14 win over Miami. With under 2 minutes left, he burst to his right as quarterback Ryan Tannehill released a deep pass intended for Davone Bess, who had a step on cornerback Justin Rogers.

Covering some 30 yards, Byrd beat everyone to the ball by leaping head-first. He intercepted the pass and managed to land inbounds before sliding into the Dolphins bench.

``Any receiver that's ever played the game would've been proud of that catch,'' Bills coach Chan Gailey said. ``That whole play was really amazing. ... And the timing of it.''

It was a play NFL Network announcers described as ``an Ed Reed type of play,'' in reference to the Ravens star safety.

Former NFL defensive back Aeneas Williams had a different comparison. It reminded him of Gill Byrd.

``When I see him do what he does, it's once again a reminder of some of the things his dad did when he played, and some of the things his dad taught me,'' Williams said. ``And Jairus being the next generation, let's just say he has even more abilities maybe than his dad and I combined. How about that?''

Williams, who split his career between Arizona and St. Louis, is very familiar with the Byrd family. As a player, he spent offseasons being tutored by the elder Byrd. That's how he first met Jairus, who has come to call him ``Uncle Aeneas.''

Williams, who eventually took Jairus under his wing, had his first inkling of Byrd's potential while watching a high school tape.

``I think he was a sophomore,'' he said. ``And just some of the things he was doing were electrifying.''

As for now, Williams said: ``I don't know if he's scratched the surface yet.''

What the 5-foot-10 and 203-pound Byrd lacks in size and breakout speed, he makes up for with instinct. He identifies the play and has an efficiency of movement.

``I've told him, `You've got the best feet. You come out of breaks and it's no wasted steps,''' Bills veteran linebacker Bryan Scott said. ``It's bam! Gone. I'm telling you he is, to me, the best safety in the league.''

Byrd credits his father and Williams for helping him get this far - both physically and mentally.

It's one thing to have the advantage of growing up in the shadow of NFL players and coaches. Byrd also understood it was his responsibility to do something with that edge, knowing there were those wondering whether he was getting preferential treatment because of his name.

``There was always that motivation that in some ways you've got to be better than the rest because of where you come from,'' Byrd said. ``And also, I'm a competitor. So anything your dad does, you always want to try to compete with him.''

Byrd's already ahead of the pace his father established in setting the San Diego career record with 42 interceptions. Jairus currently has 17, six more than his father had after four seasons.

Gill Byrd, a Chicago Bears defensive assistant, wouldn't be upset if his son passes him.

``I know that drives him to be the one in the family to have the most interceptions in the NFL,'' he said. ``And I love it. He has a singular focus to be the best.''

That includes Byrd's approach off the field. Jairus and Gill have established a program called the Legacy Experience, to help fathers and sons build closer relationships.

``To me, that is the one thing that as a dad I'm most proud of,'' Byrd said. ``I think he understands that where much is given, much is required. And he wants to give back to people.''

Dad had plenty more to crow about after Thursday. He was alone at the Bears headquarters watching the Bills game, when he saw his son's interception.

``I was jumping around like a little school kid in the office here,'' Byrd said. ``I was just, `Wow!'''

The Byrds have a reputation for not getting overemotional, so Jairus was a little surprised to hear about his father's reaction.

``That doesn't sound like him, jumping around,'' Byrd said, breaking into a smile, realizing he did his father proud. ``But that's cool.

``That's a dad for you.''

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Gilman's Cyrus Jones drafted by Patriots

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Gilman's Cyrus Jones drafted by Patriots

Baltimore native and former Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones was selected by the New England Patriots in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday. A Gilman graduate, Jones was the Patriots first pick in the draft, at No. 60 overall.

At 5-10 and 197 pounds, Jones is ideally suited as a slot corner who could be challenged when matched up against taller receivers on the outside. But he has solid fundamentals and his proven ability as a return specialist adds to his value.

Jones finished this past season with 37 tackles and two interceptions for the Crimson Tide and 108 tackles, seven interceptions and 25 passes defensed over three seasons as a defensive back.

RELATED: RAVENS TRADE DOWN TWICE, STEER CLEAR OF JACK, SPENCE

Jones, who began his collegiate career as a receiver before moving to cornerback as a sophomore, led the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision this past year and set an Alabama single-season record with four punt return touchdowns.

“Returning is a specialized thing,” Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said earlier this month when discussing Jones. “A lot of guys can’t do it, especially punts. It’s very hard to catch punts. So the guys that can do it and are good at it, I mean, that’s additional value for sure.”

The Ravens were interested in Jones, and he impressed them at their local pro day, but now the Baltimore native is headed to New England of all places. 

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Five things to know about Ravens third-round pick Kaufusi

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Five things to know about Ravens third-round pick Kaufusi

OWINGS MILLS - Herre are five  things to know about Ravens third-round pick, BYU defensive end – rush linebacker Bronson Kaufusi. 

1. Kaufusi had 20 sacks, 11 tackles for losses this year. 

2. Kaufusi is already 24 years old. A native of Prova, Utah he went on a two-year church mission to New Zealand. 

“I don’t feel like my age is an issue, and it hasn’t seemed to be an issue for the NFL teams I’ve talked to,” Kaufusi told the Salt Lake Tribune. “Whoever can make plays is going to play, and get the job done. To me, it doesn’t matter how old you are. This is serious stuff. The best players are going to play. It is not a big concern for me.”

3.  Kaufusi’s father, Steve Kaufusi, played for the Eagles (1988-90). 

4.  His car is a 1990 Ford Explorer. Might be time to upgrade. 

5. Kaufusi led the nation with four blocked kicks. Expect the Ravens to use his 6-foot-6 height on special teams. He played soccer and basketball growing up with helped his footwork.

RELATED: RAVENS TRADE DOWN TWICE, STEER CLEAR OF JACK, SPENCE

Ravens trade down twice, steer clear of Jack, Spence

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Ravens trade down twice, steer clear of Jack, Spence

The Ravens passed on drafting linebacker Myles Jack and outside linebacker Noah Spence on Friday, trading back twice early in the second round with two of the top remaining defensive players still available to them.

Steering clear of Jack and Spence leaves the Ravens open to second-guessing, but it’s clear the Ravens had issues with both of them. Jack is dealing with a knee injury and Spence has been dogged by off-field concerns.

Jack was considered a top-10 talent and was frequently linked to the Ravens in the first round in many mock drafts. But concerns over Jack’s knee – which he exacerbated when he said before the draft that he might ultimately need microfracture surgery – sent Jack tumbling all the way out of the first round. Many teams were concerned with the condition of Jack’s knee, but passing on a player considered to be one of the top defensive talents in the draft when healthy is definitely a gamble.

RELATED: RAVENS TAKE PASS RUSHER CORREA WITH SECOND-ROUND PICK

The Ravens dealt their No. 36 pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who promptly selected Jack, the versatile linebacker from UCLA. The Ravens, who moved to the No. 38 spot, picked up a fifth-round pick in the deal.

Then before their pick at No. 38, the Ravens traded down again, dealing that pick to the Dolphins for the No. 42 pick and a fourth-round pick.

Spence was selected at No. 39 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Jaguars, who selected defensive back Jalen Ramsey one pick before the Ravens in the first round, wind up with both Ramsey and Jack, who two weeks ago were both considered top-10 players.

As for Spence, who made a predraft visit to the Ravens, he was dismissed from Ohio State after failed drug tests and ended his career at Eastern Kentucky, where he had 11 ½ sacks last season.

Both Jack and Spence seemed to fit the mold of what the Ravens were looking for, but it’s obvious that the Ravens also had enough reservation to look elsewhere.

MORE RAVENS: RAVENS TRADE DOWN TWICE, MOVE FROM NO. 36, TO NO. 38, TO NO. 42