By Tim Graham
Jairus Byrd didn't make the Pro Bowl roster Wednesday night.
That means the last time he'll wear a Buffalo Bills helmet might be Sunday.
Byrd, an unrestricted free agent after the season, is finishing up a tremendous campaign. He deserved Pro Bowl honors. But the fans, players and coaches selected only one free safety from the AFC, and it's difficult to edge out a legend. Baltimore Ravens star Ed Reed got the spot.
Byrd smiled today at his locker and said he was "cool" with the decision. He still could play in the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Bills strong safety and captain George Wilson stopped to wonder about Byrd's future while explaining Pro Bowl politics.
"Byrd has been a playmaker for us," Wilson said. "He'll continue to be a playmaker for us or wherever free agency takes him, whether it's here or elsewhere. He'll continue to make plays. That's what he's always done.
"You want guys back, but you never know what's going to happen. You don't know what to expect. You have to wait and see."
The Bills will have the final say on whether Byrd comes back. They can apply the franchise tag to him, guaranteeing one more season at the average salary of the NFL's five highest-paid safeties.
Byrd is third on the team with 53 tackles, including four for losses. His five interceptions and four forced fumbles each lead the team. His two fumble recoveries are tied for the team lead. He has six pass breakups.
"One thing you can't deny about Byrd: He's a playmaker," Wilson said. "He's a ball hawk. He always seems to be around the ball.
"Whether he's a Pro Bowler or not, he's a game breaker."
Reed, however, is a future Hall of Famer who a generation of players considers to be the standard at his position. The nine-time Pro Bowler has 58 tackles, four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and 16 pass breakups this year.
For his career, Reed has 61 interceptions (seven for TDs) and 13 fumble revoveries (two for TDs).
"The Pro Bowl a lot of times is a popularity contest," Wilson said. "I think it hurts you when you play in a small market, especially when you're not winning. Ed Reed is on a playoff team. It just goes to show it's popularity and getting wins.
"I think the true test of the cream of the crop at each position comes from the All-Pro teams that are voted on by the writers, people that watch the game from an analytical standpoint rather than being fans or thinking of name recognition."