Saints notebook: Jairus Byrd frustrated by injury _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS — Saint S Jairus Byrd (31) chats on the sideline with S Kenny Phillips (30) during the Saints’ afternoon Walk Thru Training Camp practice Saturday in White Sulphur Springs, WV. Byrd has been on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

Jairus Byrd knows the view that has developed around him.

He’s an expensive football player who hasn’t played much football since signing with the Saints last offseason. People want to see him play. Fans are frustrated and growing more impatient each week.

Byrd feels the same way.

“I’m as frustrated as all of them,” Byrd said. “I didn’t come into this trying to get hurt. No one tries to get hurt. It’s just something that I’m dealing with. I’m frustrated, too. I’m just praying and getting healthy and going out there. Just hang in there.”

New Orleans has been hanging for a long time. Byrd, who signed a six-year, $54 million contract before the 2014 season, landed on season-ending injured reserve last October after appearing in four games, practiced with the Saints all summer, then left New Orleans’ final organized team activity and disappeared.

Byrd has been dealing with a knee injury, but any other details remain scarce, including whether or not it’s related to the “bucket-handle” tear in his meniscus that ended Byrd’s first season in New Orleans. The safety declined to offer specifics Wednesday.

“It’s a long story,” Byrd said. “There’s more to the whole thing, but it’s something that you just deal with.”

The Saints have been dealing with Byrd’s absence the best they can. Rafael Bush was slated to start in Byrd’s place at free safety, but he suffered a torn pectoral muscle against the Arizona Cardinals. Bush’s injury forced the Saints to bring back Kenny Phillips, who’s started the past two games.

Byrd, who returned to practice in a limited capacity Wednesday, is working his way back, but the coaching staff will decide when he’s ready to rejoin the lineup.

“Only way you really get into football shape is playing,” Byrd said. “First step is getting out there and actually going through practice.”

Wiggle room

Drew Brees has agreed to convert part of his base salary into a signing bonus to help create some financial flexibility for the Saints.

The move clears up $2.6 million in cap space and elevates Brees’ 2016 cap hit to $30 million, which is currently the highest in the NFL, according to a source.

“They approached me about doing it to open up some cap room for the team,” Brees said. “I was happy to do it.”

The quarterback’s base salary was previously $18.75 million. It is now $13.55 million. By converting part of his base salary to a signing bonus, it allows New Orleans to prorate it over this season and next season, which is the final one on Brees’ contract.

If Brees is cut or traded during the offseason, he would now count as $10 million in dead money against the cap. His $20 million in base salary and workout bonuses would clear from the cap. That money becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2016 league year.

“Next year’s next year,” Brees said. “This year’s this year. There’s so much football to be played. I know that’s my focus and the organization’s focus.”

Injury report

Defensive end Cam Jordan (back) and right guard Jahri Evans (knee) did not practice for the Saints on Wednesday. Jordan, the Saints’ best defensive lineman, is an essential component who has played 87.9 percent of the defense’s snaps so far. Evans, who missed the loss to Carolina because of the injury, was replaced by Senio Kelemete in the starting lineup, and the backup guard held up well.

Brees, Byrd, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (toe), cornerback Keenan Lewis (hip) and wide receiver Brandin Cooks (ankle) were all listed as limited.