NASHVILLE, Tenn. –Keeping himself in top-notch shape was a given for Titans safety Kevin Byard this offseason.
Byard did it by working out at Saint Thomas Sports Park and his former school, MTSU. He even added some boxing classes to give him more punch in his second NFL season.
At the same time, Byard studied some of the best safeties in the game, from Earl Thomas to Eric Berry to Reshad Jones to Eric Weddle.
"When I am in the offseason training, I am thinking, 'What is Earl Thomas doing?' What are those top safeties in the league doing right now?'," Byard said. "And I am trying to outwork them.
"And I watched everybody. I watched at least five games of all of them, just trying to steal a lit bit from them. They are all different safeties, some of them play straight deep middle and some of them play in the box. So I just try and steal whatever I can."
A third-round draft pick by the Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft, Byard wants to be an All-Pro and Pro Bowl performer in 2017 while helping the Titans reach the playoffs. Coming off a solid rookie season, he's off to a nice start in training camp.
Byard got his hands on two footballs on Day One, when he intercepted pass. He's been steady through the first three practices of camp.
"He looks like a long-time vet the way he makes his calls and gets everybody in the right place,'' coach Mike Mularkey said of Byard. "Offensively we do a lot of things. There's a lot of moving parts that you have to adjust to, and make sure everybody is on the same page to adjust to what we do. And he has done very well with that."
Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has raved about Byard from the beginning.
A safety who also played a key role on special teams, Byard played in all 16 games for the Titans in 2016. He started seven games, and was fifth on the team with 63 tackles. He added a sack, three quarterback pressures and four passes defensed. Byard was second on the team with 10 special teams tackles.
"I think the sky is the limit on him,'' LeBeau said after Byard's rookie year. "I don't want to put a lot of pressure on a young player, but he had a great season for a first year player and he is going to do nothing but grow.
"He has an exceptional football mind and I think that is one of his strengths. He is going to grow and he is going to be a coach on the field, there is no question about that."
Byard, who led or tied for the team lead in tackles twice during his rookie season, spent extra time studying tape of not just the top safeties around the league this offseason. He also studied his own game film, and his opponents.
On the field in training camp, he can tell a big difference.
"It is like night and day," Byard said. "I feel so much more comfortable, and so much more confident in making the calls. And the guys trust me, and that is big when you have that from the coaches and the players."
Heading into Year Two, Byard is ready to make more plays this fall.
He also plans to step up from a leadership standpoint. In a secondary with plenty of new faces, from cornerbacks Logan Ryan, Adoree Jackson and Demontre Hurst to fellow safety Johnathan Cyprien, he plans to make his voice heard.
"I was definitely a little bashful last year, just not being fully sure of myself," Byard said. "This year, I am completely sure of everything I am doing. I am not looking to make mistakes, and if I do it will be full-speed, I can guarantee you that."
Titans players take the field for Day 3 of the team's 2017 training camp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Donn Jones Photography, Gary Glenn)