Saints coach Sean Payton said safety Jairus Byrd was undergoing a surgical procedure on his back to address a problematic disc on Thursday and isn’t expected to be back on the field with his team until training camp begins in late July.
Byrd wasn’t present at Thursday’s organized team activities (“OTAs”) with the Saints, which began Tuesday; and Payton spoke about him after practice. Payton said the surgery would help alleviate and prevent any issues that might otherwise come up in the fall for Byrd, who the Saints in March signed to a massive six-year free-agent deal worth up to $56 million.
Payton said Byrd had dealt with the back issue previously and that it came up during weight-lifting this offseason, though the coach also claimed it was asymptomatic and wasn’t causing any pain to the player. A specialist in Los Angeles checked on it and suggested a surgery at this point of the year was an option though it wasn’t necessary, according to Payton.
Byrd wouldn’t have had the surgery during the season and would have only had treatment on symptoms if necessary, Payton said. Payton added that he expects Byrd will not be a full participant at OTAs from June 3-5 and June 16-19 as well as minicamp June 10-12.
However, he’ll back with the Saints to perform rehabilitation next week, Payton said.
Other OTAs will be June 3-5 and June 16-19. There will be a mandatory minicamp from June 10-12.
“Our guess is we’ll be very cautious and hopefully get him back here, and then he’ll start up training camp with no problem," Payton said.
Byrd’s 22 interceptions are the most among NFL safeties — and No. 2 among all players — since entering the league in 2009 as a second-round draft choice by the Buffalo Bills.
He has 11 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries to go with the interceptions, and all that was enough to convince the Saints — whose No. 4 overall defense in 2013 created the fourth-fewest turnovers — to acquire him at a hefty price.
Other safeties on the Saints’ roster aside from Byrd include Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush and rookie Vinnie Sunseri, a fifth-round draft pick out of Alabama.