METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints' prized free-agency acquisition, safety Jairus Byrd, is undergoing back surgery Thursday that the team is hoping will have him back at full speed in time for training camp.
Coach Sean Payton described the surgery as "something that didn't need to be done" but that all parties decided would be best for Byrd long-term after a disc issue had been nagging him for the past month -- and even before Byrd joined the Saints.
Payton said Byrd will probably miss all of OTAs and minicamp over the next month. But he expects him to "start up training camp with no problem."
"It's been asymptomatic, but it's something we wanted to do -- and he as well -- to alleviate or avoid any issues in the fall," Payton said.
Byrd left the Pro Bowl in January with a back injury, though it's unclear if it was the same issue. Payton said the issue had come up "probably in the last month during the weightlifting, and it's something that he's dealt with before."
"This is something after the doctors looked at it, and the specialists out in [Los Angeles] looked at it, [they] felt this was one scenario that would kind of take care of it rather than try to [keep managing it]," Payton said. "If it was during the season, you wouldn't go through the procedure. You would treat it symptomatically then."
The Saints certainly hope they get Byrd back at full speed after making a huge investment in him this offseason. The three-time Pro Bowler signed a six-year, $54 million contract that included $20.3 million in guaranteed money, plus another $6 million guaranteed for injury only.
The team is counting on Byrd to help generate turnovers -- a top priority for the defense. Byrd had 22 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in five seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
On a positive injury note for the Saints, standout safety Kenny Vaccaro was full-go during Thursday's OTA session (the first practice that was open to the media) after he ended his rookie season on injured reserve with a fractured ankle. Vaccaro and veteran safety Rafael Bush took reps with the first-string defense.