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Kevin Byard Making Impact in Rookie Season for Titans


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kevin Byard remembers his 'Welcome to the NFL moment" well.

It happened in Week 1, the day he made his debut for the Tennessee Titans.

"It was really when I tackled Adrian Peterson,'' Byard said of the Vikings running back. "I tackled Adrian Peterson and I was like, 'I know I can do this thing. I know I can be in this for a long time."

Byard, this team's rookie safety from MTSU, has come a long way since.

"Every game I feel more comfortable,'' Byard said on Monday. "Every game I feel like I am making more plays, even with the limited reps I have been getting I feel like I am making an impact and I want to make an impact in every single game I play in, and that is what I am striving for."

Byard has earned extra playing time with his play.

On Sunday against the Chargers, Byard had his most productive day as a pro. Byard tied for the team lead and set a new career-high with 10 tackles in San Diego. He also added a tackle for a loss, and had a key break-up on a pass intended for Chargers tight end Antonio Gates. He was also active on special teams.

Byard played in 49 of the team's 78 snaps against the Chargers, a week after playing 64 of the team's 72 snaps against the Jaguars, when he tallied five tackles, including two for losses.

On the season, Byard has 27 tackles, with four tackles for a loss and two passes defensed. Byard played just 21 snaps in the opener against the Vikings, but he quickly began to see his playing time increase.

"He's very instinctive,'' Titans coach Mike Mularkey said of Byard. "He plays hard. I think he's always around the football. He broke up some of the quick screens to the receivers yesterday—very instinctive on knowing and being aware that it was coming and then blowing it up.

"Yeah, I thought he played very well (against the Chargers). I mean, the last play, he had a chance to make the stop on third-and-seven (against Melvin Gordon), but other than that, he did a lot of good things for us."

Byard, selected in the third round by the Titans, is hardly satisfied.

"Honestly, going into this year I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before I was really feeling comfortable out there, and before I could really go out there and make plays fast,'' he said. "But all that stuff really means nothing if we are not getting wins. If I have one tackle, nine tackles, 12 tackles it doesn't matter. I just want to win."

On Sunday, the Titans will face the Green Bay Packers, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Byard is very familiar with the five-time Pro Bowler, and two-time league MVP.

The Titans select Middle Tennessee State S Kevin Byard in the third round (64th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft. (AP Photos)

But he won't be intimidated. And he said the focus of the team's defense is to clean up the mistakes made in Sunday's loss to the Chargers, and to get back to .500 with a win.

"He is one of the best quarterbacks of our time, and definitely my time. He is one of those guys who has thrown countless Hail Marys, fourth quarter comebacks,'' Byard said of Rodgers.

"But I feel I can play with anybody. I mean, I'm not a guy who goes out there and says, "Oh, we have Aaron Rodgers coming to town this weekend.' I feel like I can play with anybody in this league.

"…As a defense we have to keep improving. We are not a terrible defense all of a sudden because we had one bad game. We are still a good defense and we just have to correct things and keep getting better."

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