Bills granted roster exemption for Byrd

One day after Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd signed his franchise tender and looked primed to return to action, not everything was settled between the Pro Bowl safety and his team.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday afternoon that the Bills were still looking into receiving a roster exemption for Byrd, one that could extend into the regular season.

"An extra roster spot is always a good thing," general manager Doug Whaley told the AP.

However, the NFL announced later Wednesday that they had only granted the Bills an exemption for Byrd through the final two games of the preseason.

As Whaley noted, the NFL often grants teams a roster exemption for players who return from a contract holdout or similar situation this late in the preseason. Byrd has yet to rejoin the Bills, who broke camp at St. John Fisher College on Wednesday, although he can practice while under the exemption.

The Buffalo News reported Tuesday evening that Byrd surprised the Bills by signing his tender Tuesday. Byrd's reasoning for returning earlier than expected? The roster exemption given by the NFL is often for two weeks, and by returning now with two weeks left in the preseason, Byrd would avoid missing regular-season games.

Byrd would not have received any of his game checks, equal to one-seventeenth of his $6.9 million salary, if he was on the exempt list during the regular season.

By granting roster exemptions, the NFL gives teams a chance to ease returning players back into the mix, not necessarily as a vehicle for withholding salary in a contract dispute. On Wednesday, Bills head coach Doug Marrone did not seem concerned with needing to take it slowly with Byrd's return.

"We're coming back ready to get him out there on the field," Marrone said. "I don't think it's as big of an issue as people might make it out to be."

However, Whaley told the AP that the Bills still tried to receive an exemption that extends into the regular season. According to the AP, Byrd and the NFL Players Association would have been able to appeal that decision.

Ultimately, how realistic was the possibility of the Bills not playing Byrd in the opener? Whaley appeared to take a hard-line stance with Byrd, but the Bills will open their regular season at home against their division rival New England Patriots.

Would the Bills really have held Byrd out of that game? It seems unlikely.

It's likely that this was more posturing from both sides. The Bills needed Byrd more than they do any 54th player on their roster for Week 1, and Byrd wanted his Week 1 game check of about $406,000.

ESPN's Ed Werder tweeted late Wednesday that "acrimony remains" between the two parties, and these latest developments support that notion.