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After four years with Browns, Poyer sees 'great opportunity' with Bills

So far, losing is all Jordan Poyer has known in the NFL.

The safety spent most of the past four seasons with the Cleveland Browns. In that time, the team's record is 12-45.

Poyer is ready for a change. Whether he has come to the right place is debatable, given that his new team, the Buffalo Bills, hasn't been to the playoffs in 17 years.

For Poyer, however, it feels like a definite upgrade.

"I think this is a great opportunity," he said during his recent introductory news conference. "I mean, this is one of the best opportunities I think I’ve ever had in my whole entire life. For sure, coming from Cleveland, being out there the last four years, not winning a whole lot of football games, it’s tough.

"You play this game to win. You put in so much effort and time into your body in the offseason and to not get the results you want is tough."

With the Bills, Poyer is entering the ground floor of a new coaching regime. He's a primary piece in Sean McDermott's efforts to repair a defense that has fallen on hard times the past two seasons.

He will start at safety, next to a fellow newcomer at the position, Micah Hyde. The 6-foot, 190-pound Poyer provides a great deal of athleticism and is a hard hitter. Poyer also can contribute as a punt returner.

He and Hyde met each other two offseasons ago through a mutual friend, Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey, one of Hyde's former teammates at the University of Iowa.

"He’s a great dude, great football player and I’m excited to work with him," Poyer said of Hyde. "I’m excited to play alongside him. I think we can both learn a lot from each other. I’ve watched a lot of his tape. I think both of us" are "versatile players.

"He’s a great athlete, he’s a great player and he’s going to help this team win football games."

There was a time when Poyer seemed destined to try to help a team win games in a different sport. In high school, he was mainly a baseball prospect and didn't draw much recruiting interest for football.

Poyer started out playing baseball and football at Oregon State, but after two years, the heavy athletic load took its toll on his grades. In his junior year, he gave up baseball (he was an outfielder) and decided to focus on being a professional football player.

"If I wasn’t pursuing my dream of playing football in the NFL, it was definitely going to be the MLB because I was damn good at baseball," said Poyer, who was drafted by the Florida Marlins in 2009.

After entering the NFL in 2013 as a seventh-round draft pick of Philadelphia, Poyer spent three games with the Eagles before being released. The Browns claimed him off waivers and he played nine games with them during his rookie season, serving as their main punt returner through the final six weeks. He averaged 14.3 yards per return and was tied for fourth on the team with six special-teams tackles.

Poyer appeared in all 16 games in 2014 as a reserve. He ranked second on the Browns with 13 special-teams tackles. He also had nine stops on defense and returned seven punts for 28 yards.

In 2015, Poyer made three starts at free safety and one at strong safety. He made 37 tackles, including his first career sack and first two interceptions. He also had four passes defensed and a fumble recovery on top of nine special-teams tackles.

Poyer's breakthrough season came in 2016. He started the first six games before taking a vicious hit against Tennessee that caused him to suffer a season-ending lacerated kidney.

"It was a pretty scary situation," said Poyer, who still managed to make a career-best 39 tackles with two passes defensed in the six games. "We all know when we lace our cleats up on Sunday what could happen out there on the football field. It’s a bang-bang play, he just kind of caught me in a position where maybe I should have had my head on a swivel. … Initially I just thought I lost my breath, but I was able to get up and walk away from it and come back and now I’m standing here fully healthy and ready to go play football."

When he left the lineup, the Browns were 0-6. They would go 0-14, after a loss to the Bills, before notching their first win, against San Diego, on the way to a 1-15 finish.

The circumstances weren't exactly conducive to having a great attitude.

"It’s hard to stay motivated," Poyer admitted. "But coming out here, it’s a new opportunity. It’s a new coaching staff, it’s new faces in the locker room. It’s a new opportunity to go out and compete and win games, and that’s what I’m here to do."

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