Photo gallery: Saints vs. Falcons _lowres

Advocate file photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is relying on a new scheme and new faces to revamp the Saints defense.

Rob Ryan thinks the criticism Jairus Byrd received for not being on the field during the first three weeks of the season was unwarranted.

The New Orleans Saints safety was working his way back from a knee injury that kept him sidelined throughout the summer, and, as Byrd said last month, the situation was beyond his control.

“It’s not his fault he’s had to overcome all these injuries,” Ryan said. “It’s just unfortunate. It’s part of the game. No one’s rehabbed as hard Byrd has. It’s unfair for people to criticize him. All he’s done is work his tail off to be a part of this defense.”

Byrd appeared in four games during his first season in New Orleans and was back on the field during last week’s win against the Dallas Cowboys, playing 36 snaps. The Saints released safety Kenny Phillips earlier this week, so it seems likely he will see a bigger role against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Ryan is eagerly awaiting the date when his free safety is fully healthy and perform at a high level.

“When he’s well, now, there’s not a better free safety in football,” Ryan said. “We’re looking forward to that day. But I know one thing: Hard work and determination, that’s all this guy h as been giving the New Orleans Saints.”