The Buffalo Bills have listed star free safety Jairus Byrd as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, and it looks increasingly likely that the Patriots won’t have to worry about Byrd patrolling the deep half of the field. The disgruntled star is one of the most formidable safeties in the NFL, and he is very likely the best coverage safety that this league has to offer. Byrd has it all: instincts, ball skills, and range. If the Bills don’t have Byrd out on the field in Sunday, then this team’s secondary is in bad shape with top cornerback Stephon Gilmore also out. If Byrd is out, the Bills best two players in the secondary will be cornerback Leodis McKelvin and strong safety Da’Norris Searcy.
I expect Byrd to miss Sunday’s game, but there is still a chance of him playing, since the Bills are not willing to list him as out. They stated that they weren’t going to rule him out yesterday, and their minds have not changed today. Byrd is suffering from plantar fasciitis, which is a painful foot injury that can be played through, but it looks like the Bills and Byrd have not had success managing it. I also wonder if Byrd simply does not want to play injured, and that would make sense given his contract dispute.
All eyes will be peeled on Sunday to see what Byrd’s status is, and veteran safety and new signing Jim Leonhard will be the one to make the start at FS if Byrd is a no-go. Leonhard has experience in Mike Pettine’s defensive system, and he’s an adequate veteran. Back when he was with the New York Jets Leonhard was a very good starter, but injuries have curtailed his career since then.
The Bills also listed quarterback E.J. Manuel as probable, but he is guaranteed to play based on comments made earlier this week by Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone.