Micah Hyde did his best Wednesday to downplay this weekend’s return to Green Bay.
But Jordan Poyer knows better. As one of Hyde’s best friends and backfield mates, Poyer knows all about the emotions Hyde will experience Sunday when the Buffalo Bills arrive at Lambeau Field.
“He’s excited,” Poyer said with a wry smile. “He’s excited. That’s all I can say about that.”
Hyde was gracious Wednesday about the time he spent in Green Bay after the Packers made him a fifth-round draft pick in 2013.
“I’ve got nothing but love for the organization,” he said. “They gave me my first shot in the league. I’ve got a lot of friends on that team. The coaches I had, I respect so much. Very smart, intelligent coaches.”
Hyde had plenty of success in his four years with the Packers. The team made the playoffs every year he was there, and Hyde played every job possible in the secondary, in addition to returning kickoffs and punts. Despite that, the Packers informed Hyde’s agent they were not interested in re-signing him when he reached unrestricted free agency during the 2017 offseason. What’s more, they did so as the 2016 season was still going on.
In comments made to Syracuse's The Post-Standard last December, Hyde let on just how much that stung.
“It was eye opening,” he told the paper. “It was like somebody stabbed me in my back, because I still had to play for that team for the next whatever. But I played my best football I’ve ever played. Maybe when I get stabbed in my back it makes me play a little better.”
Hyde finished the 2016 season with three interceptions in the final six games, then added another one in the playoffs. His three career punt returns for touchdowns with Green Bay are tied for the Packers’ team record. While Green Bay didn’t want him, Buffalo certainly did. The Bills gave him a five-year contract worth up to $32 million, with $14 million in guarantees. Just like that, he had a new home.
So does time heal all wounds?
“I wouldn't say it was a wound,” Hyde said Wednesday. “I wouldn't say I was cut open. I would say it was more just frustration. … I thought that what I did for them for the four years that I was there was good enough to maybe get some type of offer at the time, but I understand it's a business.
“That's why I talk to these young guys around the league and just explain that to them. You never know what situations you might go through. It's kind of out of your control. From there, just try to keep pushing, keep bettering yourself and do anything you can to help the football team. When I came here, that was the first thing I tried to do.”
Hyde did that in his first season with the Bills, earning his first Pro Bowl nod after setting a single-season best with five interceptions. He’s one of just five safeties in the NFL since 2013 with 12 or more interceptions and four or more sacks.
“I'm a routine guy,” he said. “I want to wake up in the morning, eat the same stuff. When that routine got broken, it was a little different for me. It was a blessing in disguise for sure, because I love Buffalo. I love this community. I love this team. I love my teammates. I love everything about Buffalo. It was kind of hard to see (that) in free agency before last season, but like I said, I've got nothing but love for the organization and what they were able to do for myself and my family. It was an awesome four years of experience there.”
Speaking on a conference call with the Western New York media Wednesday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy called Hyde “a stud.”
“I have ultimate respect for him as a man and as a football player,” McCarthy said. “He’s doing a heck of a job up there. I’m very proud of them.”
McCarthy wasn’t eager to get into specifics of why Hyde got away.
“You have a business aspect to this,” he said. “These are really questions for last year.”
Hyde’s experience in Green Bay is one Poyer can relate to. He joined the Bills on the same day as Hyde, coming over after Cleveland failed to re-sign him after the 2016 season.
“I know even in the preseason when I went back to Cleveland, I sort of had a chip on my shoulder for that, so I know he’s excited to go back there and play,” Poyer said.
“We've all been doubted before, we've all been overlooked,” Hyde said. “We kind of have that underdog mentality going into every football game, and just personally. We all have had our trials and tribulations.”
Hyde said what happened in Green Bay “wasn't fuel to the fire, it's just more about kind of having that underdog mentality and knowing that you have to continue to get better. When a team doesn't want you, and they basically tell you straight up they don't want you, it's kind of like motivation to keep getting better. It wasn't one of those things, ‘revenge,’ or ‘I'm going to play better this season to make them be mad they let me go.’ It's not like that. I understand I've got to keep getting better, and from last year to this year, I've still got to continue to get better.”
So, yes, Sunday’s game is circled on Hyde’s calendar, as the saying goes, but not for the reason you may think.
“We're 1-2 coming off a big win,” he said. “We're trying to get this thing rolling. It's the next opportunity, it's the next game. That's why it's circled. We want to go in there and get a win. It's as simple as that. It's not about me. It's not about Micah Hyde going back to Lambeau Field, it's about the Buffalo Bills playing the Green Bay Packers for a win. I could care less about all the hype of me going back to Lambeau. I just want to win. This team, we all just want to win.”