Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- By the time Sunday rolls around, the Buffalo Bills will have franchised safety Jairus Byrd in uniform for the first time in 2013. After missing all of training camp due to his contract dispute with the team, and missing the first five regular season games with a case of plantar fasciitis in both feet, it appears as though Byrd will make his season debut against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"This is what I always wanted to do from Day One," the safety said on Wednesday. "A lot of people didn't believe me but, now we're here and now I finally get to go play… and I'm excited."
Throughout the first five weeks of the season, the tone from fans has been increasingly critical of Byrd in regards to the actual severity of his injury. The logic from most went along the lines of, 'Well, if he played on the injury last year, why can't he do it again this year?'
It wasn't hard for many to make the leap that the injury directly correlated with the squabble over not getting a long-term deal in the offseason. Now that he's back on the field though, Byrd has the chance to mend some fences with the fans that watch the team on a weekly basis. That's not his ultimate concern though.
"I'm not trying to win them back over," Byrd remarked. "I'm just trying to go out there and play my game and do what we can to win games with for these guys in the locker room that have played hard, that I've been with for four years. That's what we're gonna try to do, is go win games."
His comment wasn't laced with any animosity for how the relationship has deteriorated over the past few months. It was more of an understanding of what goes on in the league and how he's approaching his first game of the season.
He admitted that sometimes he wants to defend himself, but knows that it's just one of the many facets of being a professional athlete.
"Your human nature you know, you want to say something," Byrd said. "At the end of the day you just realize that it's part of this game. They're entitled to their own opinion. I understand why they would be upset, but I'm completely confident in myself and know where I stand and my character. What another person says about me isn't going to change how I know that I am. It is what is. I don't blame them for that, and that's fine."
For his first game of the season, both he and head coach Doug Marrone are eager for the safety to get back on the field.
"I'm really excited to see him back out there," Marrone replied. "We're working him in different things going forward, but he looked better and better. It was interesting, right before the Cleveland game when he worked out, I had a great sense of excitement there and now it's carried over. Now I'm looking forward to him going out there and playing."
"I'm just gonna give it all I've got," Byrd added. "I understand the position that I'm in due to my injury, that I have a lot to catch up. I'm just gonna give effort. Wherever I can help the team, that's where I'm gonna go."
Byrd and the Bills are up against the Bengals at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.