Buffalo Bills star free safety Jairus Byrd is suffering from plantar fasciitis, and while he is expected to play through the injury, it is possible that he actually might not be ready for the Week 1 matchup against the New England Patriots. While I would be mildly surprised to see Byrd miss the game, it is certainly possible, especially since it would be Byrd’s first game back from an injury. Plantar fasciitis (basically the inflammation of the bottom of the foot) is one of those injuries that can be played through, but it is certainly a very painful ailment. I’m not sure if Byrd’s status with the team has an effect on how much he is willing to play through the pain, but that could be a factor.
A Buffalo Bills helmet used during organized team activities at Bills Healthy Zone Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
According to ESPN’s Bills beat writer Mike Rodak, the Buffalo Bills are about to sign former New York Jets safety Jim Leonhard, and the deal is pending a physical. Leonhard is one of those players who I have a great amount of respect for, and I still view him as a potential starter in this league despite the number of times he has been cut and released. The New Orleans Saints signed Leonhard earlier this month, but they recently cut him as part of the 53-man crunchdown.
The Bills previously showed interest in Leonhard earlier this offseason, and now the reunion is complete. Leonhard started his career with the Buffalo Bills and played there before three seasons before moving on to the New York Jets and breaking out there. Leonhard has plenty of experience working with new Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, and that’s certainly a plus. His skills have vastly deteriorated, though, at the age of 30, and that’s why he has bounced around so much.
But with Byrd’s injury and some depth issues at safety for now (that should clear up once Stephon Gilmore is healthy in five or six games and Aaron Williams moves back to safety), Jim Leonhard should be able to stick around and be some quality insurance. All he needs to do is be a third or fourth safety, and I don’t think he’ll embarrass himself if called upon to play strong safety as insurance for Da’Norris Searcy (or if Searcy moves to FS if Byrd can’t play, not sure about the logistics of all of that, though).