By Mark Gaughan
PITTSFORD -- Safety Jairus Byrd was the player of the day during the 10th training camp practice Monday at St. John Fisher College.
Byrd had two interceptions. He stepped in front of a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to C.J. Spiller down the middle of the field early in the 11-on-11 session. Later he made a spectacular diving pickoff, getting the ball just before it hit the turf on a Fitzpatrick overthrow down the numbers of the field. Another fine pickoff was made by Leodis McKelvin on the goal line. Fitzpatrick had pressure in the red zone drill and threw to his left for Ruvell Martin. Safety George Wilson had a fourth pickoff of Fitz (actually it was the first of the bunch) on a short throw for Fred Jackson with the offense backed up on its own 8-yard line.
"Both sides made plays today," said coach Chan Gailey. "I think that was a positive in some respects. Offensively you want to limit the turnovers. Defensively you can't allow them to get in the end zone. I thought there was a little bit more pep in their step today after a day off as well."
Fitzpatrick on Byrd: "We all know he's got a great nose for the ball and he's done a great job this entire offseason in terms of being a guy that's in the right spot. He’s certainly a guy we hop makes a lot of big plays this year."
Good plays for the starting offense included back-to-back good runs up the middle by Spiller. Fitzpatrick beat the blitz and hit Donald Jones on a lofted pass down the left sideline for a 20-yard gain. Stevie Johnson, back from a sore groin that sidelined him a couple days, caught a few good slants. Fitzpatrick hit Jones on a post pattern in traffic for a touchdown. Jones used his body to shield the defenders. Then Fitzpatrick threw a 15-yard bullet along the sideline in traffic to Derek Hagan for a first down in a situational drill with 1.9 seconds on the clock. On came Rian Lindell, who booted a 43-yard field goal to end the practice.
A bunch of players returned from bumps and bruises to practice, including Chris Kelsay, Torell Troup, Jackson and Bryan Scott. Troup worked half the session. David Nelson was in uniform but was very limited.
Gailey said tackle Erik Pears, who has been out with a groin or hernia type injury, got a good prognosis from doctors.
"It looks good to be honest with you," Gailey said. "He saw a specialist and he gave him some things to work with. It looks like it's going to pay dividends. He was trying to get out here to practice. I think it looks a lot better than it did three days ago, that’s for sure."
The stands at Growney Stadium were mostly full, as a crowd of more than 2,000 watched the session.
Vince Young took second-team snaps at quarterback and connected on a lot of throws. He had a sharp strike to tight end Scott Chandler in the front left corner of the end zone for a TD in red-zone work.