Though he was recently placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, the New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton announced that their freshly acquired star safety Jairus Byrd would be back “sooner rather than later.” And if the Saints’ defense is going to have a good year, Payton better be right.
If Byrd isn’t able to go or is hampered by his injury, Rafael Bush will likely be his replacement, as he’s been taking first-team reps so far. Bush certainly feels that, even with a healthy Byrd, he could make a run at the starting role, and he looked the part when he picked off Drew Brees during the first day of minicamp. Bush also has made it known that he believes the Saints’ secondary might be good enough to challenge that of the Seattle Seahawks.
Bush may think that he can top Byrd, but no one is comfortable just taking his word for it. If Byrd isn’t back or struggles (really struggles), then they may give Bush a real shot. But for now, the Saints are just going to keep their fingers crossed for Byrd’s speedy recovery. With Byrd at safety, the Saints do have a legitimate claim to the top secondary in the league title, but Byrd is a big part of that. Without him, they’d still be good because of their talented, young strong safety Kenny Vacarro and the amazing corners, but they wouldn’t be quite as threatening without their big free agent signing.
As it stands, Byrd should be back very soon, and since the surgery was minor, his back shouldn’t cause him any lingering trouble. But if Payton should be wrong, get ready to see a lot of Bush.