It’s clear that the relationship between Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd and the Buffalo Bills needs some serious couples counseling.
Byrd had not been heard from publicly since March 1, the day the Bills placed their franchise tag on him.
He finally broke his silence Monday, and did not sound like a happy man.
“Am I happy? Sure, I mean … any time I’m playing football, I’m happy,” he said.
His body language and tone, however, suggested anything but. On 11 separate occasions during his 10-minute interview, Byrd made a reference to the “business side” of the sport.
“It’s just what I’ve learned. All I knew is you play, and then you hit free agency, and that’s just the way it goes,” he said. “But there’s also the business side of things. And that’s part of me developing and growing up. Now I understand that part of it.”
Byrd was asked whether he has asked the Bills for a trade. He did not say that he has — but also did not deny it, either.
“I’m going to leave the private matters of the business side between us,” he said. “I don’t really want to comment on other things. I’ll let coach Marrone talk more about the team aspect and what they’re doing upstairs. If you want to talk to Doug or whoever, I’m not in that position to talk about that stuff.”
Byrd chose each word carefully. He paused for four full seconds before responding to a question about whether he felt hurt by the Bills’ actions.
“I feel how anyone else would feel if you’re in my position,” he said. “If that’s ‘hurt,’ sure. If that’s … But it’s also business.
“So, I mean, you can’t really as a human, it’s easy to say, ‘Don’t take things personal.’ But it’s hard, you know what I’m saying?”
Byrd signed his franchise tender last Tuesday. The one-year contract pays him $6.916 million for this season, fully guaranteed. The Bills have the option to put the franchise tag on him again next season, at a cost of $8.29 million.
He was asked whether he expects to be with the Bills next year.
“Yeah, because there’s a thing called the franchise tag again,” he said.
As for whether he wanted to be back, Byrd sidestepped the question by saying “I’m just focusing on football right now.”
“I was a little disappointed, honestly,” Byrd said about receiving the franchise tag back in March. “But I was hoping that, ‘OK, there will be a resolution to this.’ Just being honest, that was my initial feeling. But I did think that just initially it was going to take a while, but there would be a resolution to it.”
That resolution never came. The July 15 deadline for the two sides to work out a long-term contract passed, and Byrd sat out the team’s training camp at St. John Fisher College.
Byrd is coming off his second Pro Bowl season in his first four years in the NFL. He led the Bills with five interceptions and four forced fumbles last year, and tied for the team lead with two fumble recoveries. He’s also the team’s top returning tackler with 76, five of which went for losses.
Byrd was asked whether he felt he had to prove himself on a one-year deal.
“I guess in four years if I didn’t, I don’t know what I can do, you know what I’m saying? Their mindset is what it is,” he said. “I just have to go out there and focus on football and just help this team in any way possible.”
Bills President Russ Brandon has said the team’s goal remains to sign Byrd to a long-term deal.
“He’s in a position to say that. I just got to focus on what I’m doing right now,” Byrd said. “In business, a lot of things are said, but you can’t really focus on that. You’ve got to do your job and let things settle where they may at the end.
“I’m just here focusing on football. What he says, take him at his word, I guess.”
Marrone said it was unlikely the team would play Byrd in Thursday’s preseason finale against Detroit at Ralph Wilson Stadium. He participated in individual drills during Monday’s practice.
“We’re just working him back in. I think that this week with things going well, we’d like to work him in to some of the team stuff,” Marrone said.
Byrd said he wasn’t sure whether he’d be ready to play by the Sept. 8 opener against New England.
“Only time will tell,” he said. “I’ve missed a lot of time, so we’ll see.”