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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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Suggs insists thought of retiring didn't cross his mind during rehab

Suggs insists thought of retiring didn't cross his mind during rehab

OWINGS MILLS – Not only does 33-year-old Terrell Suggs expect to be back on the field soon, the Ravens’ outside linebacker expects to play at a high level for several more seasons after recovering from his torn Achilles injury.

“It’s a fair question,” said Suggs on Wednesday, when asked what can realistically be expected from him in 2016. “This is 14 years for me. I came here a young 20-year-old, really didn’t know anything. I had some of the greatest Jedi Masters teaching me. It’s a fair question. We’ve seen a lot of Ravens come and go, and I’m one of the last few here. It’s a fair question, but in my eyes, premature.”

Suggs will begin training camp on the PUP list, but vows to be back soon.

“It’s not going to be long,” Suggs said. “We’re close to where we want to be. I can’t be timid, but I got to be smart. I feel good.”

Suggs suffered his season-ending Achilles injury Week 1 of last season, and has torn each of his Achilles once. Is it asking a lot for Suggs to still be an every-down player and double-digit sack artist? Yes. Does he sound up for the challenge? Yes.

MORE RAVENS: SUGGS' SHIRT ENDORSES GAME OF THRONES TICKET IN 2016 ELECTION

”Never did it cross my mind that I wasn’t going to come back,” Suggs said. “I got a lot of promises to keep. Many miles before I can sleep.  I love football. I love the locker room. I love my teammates. I love being out here being confrontational.”

Suggs also made it clear he wanted to silence doubters.

“We hear the gossip,” Suggs said. “We hear what y’all are saying. We’re confident, but motivated, too.”

One of the toughest parts of missing last season for Suggs was watching the Ravens go 5-11, and being unable to help.

“It was very tough to watch, and knowing what the guys went through, and for us to not have the success that we expected,” Suggs said. “It just didn’t feel good. Now we get a chance to kind of make it right. Last year’s gone, but we have to make sure that (same) team doesn’t show up Sept. 11 again. We work too hard. Our fans deserve better and we deserve better. We work our tails off. It takes a lot to be considered a Raven. We just got to get back to that.”

How well Suggs plays this year will play a part in determining his future. But as far as Suggs is concerned, it’s too early to start talking about his last ride.

“It’s not something I want to visit at the end of this year, or the end of next year,” Suggs said. “Maybe the year after that we can talk about it. What will I be, 36 then? But I’m not worried about it right now.”

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PHOTO: Suggs endorses Game of Thrones ticket with 2016 election T-shirt

PHOTO: Suggs endorses Game of Thrones ticket with 2016 election T-shirt

BY JEREMY FIALKOW (@JeremyFialkow)

Who are you voting for — Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Before you answer, let's turn to Ravens' outside linebacker Terrell Suggs for some other options.

Suggs, who's ready to make his triumphant return to football after a couple season-derailing injuries, tossed out his 2016 election endorsement to ... the Stark/Targaryen ticket?

The names, of course, stem from two powerful family names in HBO's hit show 'Game of Thrones.' 

(Screenshot/CSN Mid-Atlantic)

Whether Suggs actually stays up to date with 'Thrones' or if the network gifted him merchandise from all of their shows remains to be seen. Regardless, T-Sizzle is starting a movement, so climb aboard.

RELATED: FLACCO WON'T RUSH KNEE INJURY REHAB

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Justin Forsett not trying to hear about running-back-by-committee system

Justin Forsett not trying to hear about running-back-by-committee system

OWINGS MILLS – That running-back-by-committee system the Ravens are thinking about using? Justin Forsett isn’t feeling that.

What’s running-back-by-committee?” Forsett deadpanned. “I don’t understand that.”

Forsett laughed, but he was serious about retaining his starting job and doing the bulk of the work at running back. The Ravens are deep at the position, with Forsett, Buck Allen, rookie Kenneth Davis, Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro all ready for Thursday’s first full training camp practice, while Trent Richardson (knee) remains on the PUP list.

MORE RAVENS: WHY FLACCO WON'T RUSH TO PLAY IN PRESEASON

Forsett will turn 31 years old in October, and even if he retains the starting job, the Ravens are leaning toward reducing his carries. But Forsett enters training camp thinking he can still be a 200-carry, 1000-yard rusher. 

“I grew up with old school running backs,” Forsett said. “I love watching them play - Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, all those guys. Of course if you’re a running back, everybody wants to on the field all the time. I’m going to put myself in a position where they can’t take me off the field. That’s my mentality. At the end of the day, everybody has their role. I’ll let coach decide that.” 

Even if Forsett doesn’t carry the ball as much as he would like, count on him being a consummate team player. All of the Ravens’ younger backs will benefit from being around Forsett, who starts training camp vowing not to give in, to age, or to his running back competition.

“My goal is to go out and lead this team to a Super Bowl,” Forsett said. “I’m going to try to put myself in a position to do so. This is my ninth training camp. It’s a blessing. Me being fired three times throughout my career, traveling to five different teams, I don’t take it for granted.”