Unfortunately, however, the three-time Pro Bowler is following a disturbing trend to start the summer.
Byrd didn’t participate in the Saints’ organized team activities (OTAs) Thursday while he worked off to the side with trainers. Saints coach Sean Payton said Byrd is rehabbing the same knee injury that has hampered him since early in the 2014 season.
It’s unclear if Byrd had another surgical procedure this offseason, but Payton indicated that Byrd might not fully participate in team drills until the start of training camp.
“He’s just going through his rehab. He’s right on schedule, so it’s nothing different than what was expected,” Payton said. “We expect him to be ready when training camp starts. Right now he’s getting walk-through snaps, some individual work. He’s on schedule.”
Byrd, 29, has played in just 17 games since he signed a six-year, $54 million contract in 2014. He missed that first summer because of back surgery, then he suffered a season-ending knee injury during practice in Week 5. Last year, much of Byrd’s training camp was wiped out after the knee hadn’t fully healed, and he didn’t start playing until Week 4.
Byrd was decent as the year went on, but his one interception and one forced fumble were a far cry from the 22 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles he produced in his first five seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
Byrd and the Saints are still waiting for a true return to peak form -- which the defense could badly use after ranking 32nd last year in points allowed and setting NFL records for most TD passes allowed in a season and for highest opponents’ passer rating.
In other injury news Thursday:
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks also worked off to the side with trainers with an undisclosed ailment. Payton declined to expand on any other injuries since teams aren’t required to report them at this time of year.
As expected, defensive end Cameron Jordan only did some individual work and was held out of team drills. Jordan said Wednesday that he hasn’t been cleared to practice yet following offseason back surgery. But he considers himself “ahead of schedule.”
Cornerback Keenan Lewis was also limited to individual and position drills after he ended last season on injured reserve with a lingering hip/sports hernia issue. “I’m getting better every day,” Lewis said. “I think I’m making big progress from where they thought I would be. By training camp I’m 100. I plan to play every snap and go out there and pick up where I left off.”
Guard Tim Lelito and defensive end Bobby Richardson also did not participate in full-team drills. ... Outside linebacker Kasim Edebali, safety Jamarca Sanford, defensive end Mitchell Loewen, tight end Jack Tabb, receiver Tommylee Lewis and fullback Sione Houma did not participate in any on-field work. ... Offensive tackle Avery Young was not present.
On a positive injury note, Saints coach Sean Payton said RB C.J. Spiller’s “health and movement skills look noticeably different” after his 2015 season was hampered by a summer knee injury. “He worked his butt off in the offseason to get that strength back in that ... knee,” Payton said. “That’s been real encouraging.”