Nashville, Tenn. (WKRN)- If you follow Tennessee Titans’ safety Kevin Byard on any social media platform, you quickly realize this guy truly loves the game. The former MTSU standout works year round to make sure he’s an impact player throughout the entire NFL season.
For the most part Byard has done just that, proving to be one of the elite safeties in the league. But last year his numbers were down, and while he did tally a career-high 111 total tackles, he had just one interception.
Critics were quick to say he became too comfortable after signing a five-year, $70.5 million contract extension in 2019, but Byard would disagree.
“Last year was unique for the entire NFL, especially for me. I didn’t put up the numbers I wanted but at the end of the day I don’t have to apologize for anything. I understand my role,” said Byard.
Instead of focusing on the past, Byard is looking at how he can be better this season.
“I probably have the biggest chip I’ve ever had on my shoulder this year. One thing I’m trying to do is work on the relationships with my guys early, to make sure I’m contributing that way. It’s not all about individual stats,” added Byard.
Building chemistry will be challenging with virtual meetings continuing, along with new faces added to the secondary, but Byard isn’t making excuses.
“The main thing is getting to know guys. Getting to know how they talk, getting to know their family because that’s important being a defensive back. You want to play for the brother next to you, grow a relationship,” said Byard.
He’s excited to build that trust when new additions Janoris Jenkins, Kevin Johnson and Matthias Farley arrive in Nashville. And right now he’s doing that with fellow safety Amani Hooker.
“Since Amani came in his rookie year, I saw potential in him. He’s is a versatile player. Last year he had a big year, playing 400 to 500 snaps on defense. This year he’ll probably have one-thousand snaps and he’s ready for the challenge,” added Byard.
Expectations will be high for Hooker this season, as he steps in as a starter, after the Titans released Kenny Vaccaro. Having a guy like Byard around is beneficial for many reasons.
Hooker said, “You see him (Kevin Byard) working out and I’m thinking that I need to do the same thing he’s doing. He’s a guy that is driven, I’m trying to be just like him. He has success in the league and I’m trying to be that same way.”
The two Titans are currently training with AthElite founder Jeremey Holt, who also works with NFL players like George Kittle and T.J. Hockenson.
Byard said the focus right now is on fundamentals and footwork.
“I wanted to make sure I’m getting my defensive back drills in. It’s been good working on my hips and footwork, making sure I’m ready to go for when we are able to get back into the building for OTAs,” said Byard.
With offseason workouts being voluntary, there is no way to predict when the entire secondary will be all together, but once that unit is able to unite, Byard said building an identity is priority.
“I think we have some really good pieces and I think with myself leading the group, I’m going to make sure everyone is holding each other accountable, working to be the best. We can’t do anything but get better,” said Byard.