By Tim Graham
PITTSFORD -- The only unexpected player for the start of Buffalo Bills training camp this weekend is Jairus Byrd.
The two-time Pro Bowl safety remains unsigned after the Bills placed the franchise tag on him. No contract appears imminent. Many believe a deal won't be struck before training camp ends Aug. 21.
"He'll be missed a lot," cornerback Stephon Gilmore said. "Byrd, he's a good player. I learned a lot from him when he was here. He's a playmaker. You don't come across too many guys like him because he's a great player."
Byrd's teammates were diplomatic when asked about his absence today.
They said they wished he was here. They said football is a business. They said they don't have any control over it.
"He's a valuable piece, I believe, coming from a player's perspective," Bills receiver Stevie Johnson said. "Jairus makes plays. He's shown that his entire career here.
"But that's the business side. I can't do anything about that. That's between him, his agent and the Buffalo Bills organization."
Bills General Manager Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone weren't available to comment today. They will make their initial training-camp remarks Saturday.
Byrd missed the entire offseason program without a contract. He can't be fined for missing any training-camp practices.
His absence, however, will hurt the effectiveness of new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's schemes. The more time Byrd is away from the team, the less chance he'll have to learn his assignments.
"It's a big thing for us to come out and run this scheme," Bills pass-rusher Mario Williams said of Buffalo's defensive players in general, not only Byrd. "It's going to demand a lot of us mentally, physically, especially going against our offense with their tempo and their style of play."
That comment begged the question about how fast Byrd could get caught up.
Williams seemed to back off his contention that Pettine's defense would be too demanding.
"I'm sure it'll be a challenge, but at the same time, he's a smart player," Williams said. "As long as he knows the terminology, I think that's the biggest thing and being able to communicate.
"We've got to be able to communicate with everything we've got going in, so I think the biggest thing is just him being able to pick up on the terminology and come out and play fast."
Williams said it took him a week to learn the new terminology.
Maybe Byrd's experience with different systems will help him along. Pettine would be Byrd's fourth defensive coordinator in five seasons. Byrd previously has played for Perry Fewell, George Edwards and Dave Wannstedt.
"He's a heck of an athlete, so that's not going to be a problem on that end," Williams said. "It's just the communication."
taggedDoug Marrone | Doug Whaley | Jairus Byrd | Mario Williams | Mike Pettine | Stephon Gilmore | Stevie Johnson