The Jets are going to retire Dennis Byrd’s No. 90 jersey at halftime of tomorrow’s game against the Dolphins, and he may have a few words for them today.
Byrd told Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com he was going to spend some time with the team as they finish their preparations for Miami.
Byrd, whose promising career was cut short by a neck injury that initially left him paralyzed, also delivered an emotional message to the Jets two years ago before a playoff win over New England.
“The thing I remember is how proud he was to be a Jet,” guard Brandon Moore said. “He still felt like a Jet. Rex uses that term, bleeding green. You felt a connection to the past, which is something you don’t feel a lot in the NFL. People leave and move on and guys that were there, there’s no connection between past and present. It was good. It felt college-like in a sense.”
Byrd told the players prior to that playoff game he’d give anything for a chance to play one more snap, after his career ended after four seasons.
“The message was, ‘Leave it on the field. You never know when it’s going to be your last snap, so play as if every single one is,’” tight end Dustin Keller said. “It was huge. We played our butts off that day. It meant a lot to us. Sometimes people take things for granted as far as their career. We have to realize opportunities can be lost.”
The halftime ceremony tomorrow will also reunite Byrd with the man who collided with him that day, former Jets lineman Scott Mersereau.
Cimini also wrote a touching story earlier this week about Mersereau’s own injury riddled career, and the pain it left him in. It’s well worth a read, if only to realize how inspirational Byrd was to his former teammate as he struggled through a similar spinal fusion surgery, and how the memories of that day created a bond between them that miles and time couldn’t diminish.