NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two-time All-Pro safety Kevin Byard practiced Tuesday and didn't look as if he missed a beat with the Tennessee Titans despite staying away after being asked to take a pay cut earlier this offseason.
What he thinks about that request will wait for another day because the longest-tenured defender with the Titans didn't speak to reporters on the opening day of the team's mandatory minicamp.
Derrick Henry, the three-time Pro Bowl running back and one of only eight in NFL history to run for at least 2,000 yards, was drafted 19 picks ahead of Byard in 2016. The man going into the final year of his contract who also turned 30 in January joined the Titans' offseason program earlier than usual.
The run plays may not have changed much. However new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly's offense is different.
“It’s a completely new offense and just coming here trying to learn everything and getting used to the terminology," Henry said. “It has changed.”
Whether new general manager Ran Carthon might trade Byard, Henry or both was a hot topic of conversation earlier this offseason. Carthon confirmed before the draft that they had asked Byard, the first pick of the third round in 2016, to take a pay cut.
Byard had stayed away from the voluntary portion of the Titans' offseason program, working out on his own. Both Titans coach Mike Vrabel and defensive coordinator Shane Bowen made clear they expected Byard to be around when the veterans had to be.
Vrabel said Byard looked like everybody else.
“Looked like he knew what he was supposed to be doing and looked like he was in good shape,” Vrabel said. "So it’s good to have everybody out there that’s ready to perform and able to be out there.”
Byard is a four-time defensive captain who has never missed a game since being drafted out of Middle Tennessee. He has started 105 of 114 games played and led Tennessee in tackles and interceptions each of the past two seasons.
He leads all NFL safeties with 27 interceptions since the start of the 2017 season.
Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, a free agent signee this offseason, noticed a difference in communication on the field immediately with Byard making sure teammates were lined up in the right spots. Byard also had a nice play to break up a pass at one point.
“He was gone, but you could tell he’d been taking care of himself,” Al-Shaair said. "You know obviously a pro all the way through and through because he came in and you would have thought he was here the whole time. So that was really good to see.”
A year ago, defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons came to minicamp but didn't take the field. The 19th pick overall of the 2019 draft and now two-time Pro Bowl tackle got his extension in April.
Byard agreed to a new extension in July 2019 and is poised to go into his eighth NFL season second only to quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the team with a $19.6 million salary cap hit. That includes a $3.7 million hit for restructuring, according to Spotrac.com.
Henry ranks fourth with a $16.3 million salary cap hit. He ranked second in the NFL last season in rushing for 1,538 yards and had career highs with 33 catches for 398 yards. The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama has never talked about his contract status and isn't changing now.
“Yeah, I’m not going to change what I do," Henry said. "I just continue to work. Be who I am, and let everything else take care of itself.”