This Byrd can really fly. And New England needs speed at wide receiver. It's little surprise, therefore, that the Patriots signed him as a free agent this past offseason. Now, he's finally getting his chance to show what he can do on the field, and he wants to prove he can be more than just a fast guy.
Following a 90-minute practice on the double fields behind Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, Aug. 12, Byrd took a few moments to field questions from curious reporters in his first interaction with them since joining the organization in late March.
"I like to be a consistent player," he explained. "Somebody who can make big plays. But also make the routine and consistent plays. Obviously, I'm a smaller guy, so, I won't do too many jump balls or things like that, but I'm a player that'll do whatever's asked for the team, regardless."
Though he experienced some career turbulence in the beginning, Byrd – listed at 5-9, 180 – has gained a foothold in the NFL, working his way up from a Carolina Panthers practice squad rookie in 2015 to a reliable receiving option for the Arizona Cardinals last season. In between, he managed to contribute to the Panthers offense, despite having been released and re-signed several times and having battled through injury adversities that cost him significant parts of the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Last year in his one and only season with Arizona, Byrd registered his most productive campaign thus far, catching 32 passes in 11 games. Now, he's looking to establish a new, more permanent home in Foxborough, a place that attracted him, he remarked, because of its high standards.
"I just wanted to play good football. Here, we try to do everything we can to play great football… I'm just trying to learn the offense as a whole. That's the best approach you can have when you're learning something new."
Throughout the pandemic-shortened offseason, Byrd did his best to work with his new Patriots teammates, including Cam Newton, Byrd's quarterback in Carolina. Despite the existing level of comfort between the two, Byrd admits they're both trying to find their way with a new offense here with the Patriots. So, Byrd's been looking to former Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman for guidance now that the entire squad is in town for training camp.
"Cam is a great player and he's going to bring a lot of experience to this team and to that [quarterback] room. We're excited to have him. All of those guys are working their tails off to try to get better every day.
"Julian, he's been around here for years. He's done it well for a long time," added Byrd. "People like that, you have to follow around and take heed to what they're doing and saying. You don't necessarily have to speak all the time. You just follow their actions and learn as you go. He's definitely a leader in our room and we're all trying to be our best."
Getting back to Byrd's speed, a reporter asked how he utilizes it to his advantage on the field, and the player's response seemed to suggest that there's much more to it than just out-running the defender.
"Just playing the technique, reading what the defense gives us, and taking it. There's nothing really that I can teach anybody. Just do the techniques that our coaches do and the plays will come," Byrd maintained. "Technique off the line, technique in the middle of the route, and then even finishing it. In this league, it's all about technique, and football is a game of inches."
Aside from Edelman, whose job is as secure as one can get in the NFL, there's plenty of competition for spots on the Patriots wide receiver depth chart. While Byrd came across as very down-to-earth, if he shows he can excel in this new-look Patriots offense, he'll have opportunities to soar in 2020.