NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two-time All-Pro safety Kevin Byard will talk about most any topic when asked.
Byard knows the NFL is a business, and that’s why he’s leaving the Titans’ request earlier this year to his agent and new general manager Ran Carthon. It’s also why Byard hadn’t talked about the Titans’ request until Thursday.
“I don’t really want to get into my feelings or anything about that and any emotions …,” Byard said. “I guarantee you I would not be the last player, and I haven’t been the first player, (that had a team) come to about a pay cut.”
Carthon, hired in January as the first Black general manager in the franchise’s history, confirmed just before the NFL draft that Byard had been asked to take a pay cut. Byard has never missed a game and led the Titans in both tackles and interceptions each of the past two seasons.
Byard has been working out on his own throughout Tennessee’s offseason program. He said Thursday as the Titans wrapped up their three-day mandatory minicamp that he told coaches of his plans to work out on his own very early this year.
Being on the field for this minicamp mattered.
“I felt it was very important for myself, though, and for me, to come here and be a leader and be the person I’ve always been making plays, communicating and things like that …,” Byard said. “That’s who I’m always going to be.”
Making it easier for Byard to work out on his own is Shane Bowen is going into his fourth season as defensive coordinator. The biggest change was the hiring of Chris Harris as the defense’s new passing game coordinator and cornerbacks coach.
Byard said he stayed in touch with coaches to learn any changes to a defense that ranked first against the run in 2022, but last against the pass in allowing 274.8 yards a game. He also talked a lot with coach Mike Vrabel — at the golf course.
Defensive lineman Denico Autry also reported for the mandatory minicamp along with Byard. Vrabel said he used both veterans as examples Wednesday.
“Denico and Kevin showed up for the mandatory minicamp obviously been working, ready to go, brought energy, picked up where they left off, and so that’s the expectation for everybody whether they’re here or not,” Vrabel said.
Byard, who agreed to a new extension in July 2019, currently ranks second only to quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the team with a $19.6 million salary cap hit, according to Spotrac.com. He is under contract through 2024.
The four-time defensive captain has started 105 of 114 games played since being the first pick of the third round in 2016 out of Middle Tennessee. Not only is he the Titans’ longest-tenured player on defense, he also leads all NFL safeties with 27 interceptions since the start of the 2017 season.
Turning 30 in August, Byard started working out on his own about two weeks after the Super Bowl in February. Byard said players need different approaches at different stages of their careers. He’s also not the first to stay away from the voluntary portion of the offseason program.
“I just control the things that I can control,” Byard said.
NOTES: Vrabel said CB Kristian Fulton was at the minicamp, though the cornerback never practiced. Vrabel said Fulton will be ready for training camp. CB Caleb Farley, their first-round draft pick in 2021, also has not practiced. Vrabel confirmed Farley had another procedure on his back, an issue that dropped him to No. 22 overall. The coach said Farley is lifting and looks strong. OL Dillon Radunz may not be ready when the Titans start training camp in late July.
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