Ryan Cedes the Floor to Dennis Byrd
By GREG BISHOP
BOSTON – For all of Rex Ryan’s motivational ploys, he saved perhaps his best for Saturday night, on the eve of the Jets playoff game against New England. Ryan called that tilt, the third between the teams this season, the second-most important in Jets’ history – behind Super Bowl III – earlier in the week.
With Ryan’s words serving as the backdrop, he said little Saturday, despite his penchant for fiery speeches delivered the night before each game. Instead, Ryan ceded the floor to Dennis Byrd the former Jet who was initially paralyzed by a career-ending neck injury suffered in 1992.
One player, in a text message exchange, described Bryd’s speech as “awesome,” followed by not one, but three exclamation points. Asked for his favorite part of the speech, the player wrote, “The best thing he said, among many, was he would trade everything he has for one more game and that we have that game tomorrow and take advantage of it!”
Byrd’s words resonated in large part because of his story. Against the Chiefs, on Nov. 29, 1992, Byrd and a teammate collided while chasing Kansas City quarterback Dave Krieg. Byrd broke the C-5 vertebra in his spine and never played again. No Jet has worn his No. 90 since.
After the injury, Byrd faded from public view. His speech Saturday was his first appearance in front of the team in a long time. Current players are familiar with his name, though; the Jets’ annual most inspirational award is named after Byrd. This year, running back LaDainian Tomlinson earned the honor.
After the speech, receiver Braylon Edwards posted on Twitter, “I just heard the most inspirational message of my life … As God (is) my witness, I have never been more ready to perform in my life. Dennis Byrd I respect, salute and honor you.”
Byrd stayed at the Jets’ team hotel in Providence last night. He is expected to attend the game, which, despite his words, is still tilted heavily in favor of the Patriots