NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)Training camp is giving two-time All-Pro Kevin Byard a sense of normalcy as the Tennessee Titans safety works through the grief over his mother’s unexpected death earlier this summer.
”At times, I feel like I’m still in shock a little bit, it hasn’t set all the way in,” Byard said of losing his mother, Artina Stanley, in June.
Byard left the Titans’ mandatory minicamp June 14 when his mother fell ill and died a week later. She raised Byard and his six siblings by herself following a divorce, moving her family from Philadelphia to Atlanta when Byard was in high school. He recently bought her a house, and she was working with a home business making her death even more stunning.
A month after the funeral, Byard said he has some good days and others not so good. He credits his routine of helping keep him up along with a great circle of support, having heard from hundreds of people since his mother died.
That’s why Byard says he keeps choosing to be grateful for having another day, something he tries to share with his teammates.
”You never know when it is going to be your day, and you never know when an injury may end everything or just your life, period. It’s crazy,” Byard said. ”I feel like people that have been through this situation will tell you: Love on your loved ones, and make sure you are calling people every day to let them know that you love them.”
Byard bounced back in 2021 intercepting five passes helping Tennessee improve across the board on defense. That earned the first overall pick of the third round in 2016 draft the second All-Pro nod of his career. He leads all safeties and is third in the NFL with 23 interceptions since 2017, trailing only Miami’s Xavien Howard (26) and the Chargers’ J.C. Jackson (24).
With the unexpected retirement of cornerback Buster Skrine, Byard now finds himself the oldest member of the Tennessee secondary at the age of 28 going into his seventh season.
”So I’m really the oldest guy in my room now, which is very weird going into year seven,” Byard said. ”But like I say, trying to set the example every single day.”
Byard brings a high-level of consistency every day, the kind of approach appreciated by coach Mike Vrabel. Byard hasn’t missed a start since moving into the lineup and has started 88 of 97 games in his career. Byard also has four sacks and threw a touchdown pass on a fake punt in Vrabel’s home debut as head coach in 2018.
”I can always appreciate that his consistency, the way he approaches the meetings,” Vrabel said Friday. ”He’s focused on his willingness to to do whatever we ask him to do or his willingness to help young players. … Can’t say enough good things about just his daily approach.”
The Titans need Byard not only on the field but in the meeting room. Cornerback Kristian Fulton is going into his third season, while Caleb Farley played only three games last season before an ACL injury ended the first-round draft pick’s season. Farley is practicing trying to earn a starting job with veteran Janoris Jenkins a salary cap casualty in March.
Roger McCreary was the Titans’ second-round pick out of Auburn last April, and Elijah Molden was a third-round selection last year.
Byard knows they’re all watching everything he does. The veteran already changed how and what he eats, using intermittent fasting between 7 p.m. or so each night to near midday to trim some fat before training camp.
”I’m going to make sure that I keep my standard at a high level because I can’t expect anybody else to raise their expectations or raise their standard if mine’s not extremely high,” Byard said. ”So the standard is high. Expectations is always high.”
NOTES: The Titans went indoors due to rain Friday. … They signed DB Shakur Brown who went undrafted out of Michigan State in 2021 but spent time on the practice squad in Kansas City and Detroit. He played nine games in the USFL this spring for the Pittsburgh Maulers.
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