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Bills, Jairus Byrd have relationship that badly needs patching up

By Tim Graham

Believe this: Jairus Byrd is not thrilled about returning to the Buffalo Bills on their terms.

There's no reason to doubt Byrd will enjoy playing football or that he'll bring the competitiveness that sent him to two Pro Bowls in his first four seasons. I'll be surprised if Byrd's first comments to reporters don't include flowery remarks about the Bills.

But multiple sources tell me considerable animosity remains between Byrd and the front office and that the toxicity flows both ways over his franchise-tag saga.

A comment from Bills General Manager Doug Whaley on Wednesday suggested the club preferred to keep Byrd on the sideline for the season opener against the New England Patriots.

"An extra roster spot is always a good thing," Whaley told Associated Press reporter John Wawrow, who asked if Byrd could be exempted from the roster for opening day.

Teams can request a two-week roster exemption for unsigned players who return from a prolonged, contract-related absence. That player doesn't count against the roster, doesn't get paid and cannot play. The exemption usually becomes an issue on the first roster cutdown day, which this year would be Aug. 27, after the Bills' third preseason game.

Based on Whaley's comment, the Bills would rather keep their 54th-best player on the roster -- a reserve who likely would be deactivated on gameday -- rather than suit up their two-time Pro Bowler against one of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks.

What would the purpose of that be? To deny Byrd a game check?

The NFL granted the Bills' request for the two-week roster exemption, but Byrd will get paid in full because he signed his contract before the first cutdown date.

So while Byrd is signed and will be in uniform for the Bills, the feud still is bubbling under the surface and might for some time.


Doug Whaley | Jairus Byrd
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |