WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Jairus Byrd was flattered when told that New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan compared him to Hall of Fame defensive back Aeneas Williams. But Byrd quickly deflected the idea.
"That's high praise obviously. And obviously I have a lot of work to do. I'm not there," said Byrd, who earned three Pro Bowl trips with the Buffalo Bills before signing with the Saints this year. "But I just want to keep working every day and get better. And it helps having a coach like Rob, helping you calling plays and stuff like that. He's a great coach. And I'm thankful just to be a part of something like that and the defense and stuff."
Ryan knows of what he speaks when it comes to Williams (a New Orleans native). Ryan coached Williams early in his career when both were with the Arizona Cardinals -- and Williams singled out Ryan to credit him during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech on Saturday night.
However, Byrd knows Williams even better. Williams was like family after Jairus' father, former NFL standout Gill Byrd, took Williams under his wing -- both during their playing careers and when Gill later worked with Williams as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Rams.
Jairus knew Williams as "Uncle Neaky," according to NewOrleansSaints.com's John Deshazier, who did a great story on their history this offseason. Byrd, who went to high school in St. Louis, said Williams was both his favorite player and a role model.
Unfortunately, Byrd will probably be watching from the sideline when he returns to St. Louis on Friday night for the Saints' preseason opener as he still recovers from back surgery. But Byrd didn't sound too frustrated by that on Tuesday as he talked about the steady progress he's been making since he returned to practice last week.
"It is definitely tough [to be patient], but I'm glad, I'm thankful that I'm actually able to be out there now," said Byrd, who made his practice debut last Tuesday but hasn't participated in full-team drills yet. "Doing different things like 7-on-7 drills and stuff like that and making calls, because that's the biggest part of it. …
"I feel good. That timetable (of when he'll play in the preseason) is with the trainers. They're gonna let me know. We're keeping the big picture in mind here. I'm just working with them, getting my work in every day, doing the things I need to do from the mental part and the physical part, actually being out here now. So that stuff will come."