It was initially expected that Buffalo Bills star free safety Jairus Byrd would be able to play through plantar fasciitis and face off against the New England Patriots for the opener, but Ian Rapoport reported earlier today that Jairus Byrd will “probably” end up missing “some time” with the foot injury that also plagued him last year. If Byrd is out against the New England Patriots, then the Buffalo Bills will be at a serious disadvantage in the secondary. That’s not a recipe for success against Tom Brady, and the Bills can’t afford to have both Stephon Gilmore and Byrd out in Week 1.
The NFL Network’s Albert Breer tweeted this out:
And Jairus Byrd was out there during the half-hour or so with the media, and dressed out, but wasn’t in every drill.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 4, 2013
If Jairus Byrd is unable to play, then the Buffalo Bills will have to start Jim Leonhard at safety. Leonhard, who has experience in new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense, was signed a few days ago by the Bills as insurance in case Byrd misses time, and the fact that he was limited in practice today means that he could potentially miss time. Leonhard figures to replace Byrd at free safety, and even though that isn’t ideal, Leonhard won’t be too bad at that spot.
Buffalo Bills beat writer Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 tweeted that he expects Leonhard to do more than just special teams on Sunday. He reportedly worked with the scout team today, and he is almost certainly the Bills top option to replace Byrd at free safety if Byrd is unable to play. While that is definitely a downgrade and Leonhard is better off at SS, Leonhard is the Bills best option in case of an injury and isn’t a bad option at all. I’m a believer in Leonhard despite his recent fall, and the Bills are likely better off playing Leonhard than Aaron Williams.