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Byard Willing to 'Pay the Price' for Leadership

Titans safety's second straight selection as a team captain no accident, position coach says.

Kevin Byard has been tabbed by many as one of the NFL’s top safeties, and he has plenty of personal accolades to show for it.

He made the Pro Bowl and took home All-Pro honors in just his second NFL season (2017). He has been named AFC Defensive Player of the Week twice (2017) and has made the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players list once (2018). For the second straight season, he has been named Byard a team captain.

Tennessee Titans safeties coach Scott Booker pointed out the obvious Tuesday: None of Byard’s career highlights have held him back from being a leader and helping the Titans reach team goals.

“Obviously when (the current coaching staff) got here in 2018, he was coming off of a Pro Bowl year and kind of his breakout season,” Booker said. “One thing that happens sometimes with guys when they get these individual accolades and stuff like that, it can distract them from the team goal.

“… I think if you’re fortunate enough to be named captain once, let alone multiple times, it really shows the type of team player that you are and the type of guy they want to hold everybody accountable.”

A third-round selection in 2016, the ball-hawking safety out of Middle Tennessee State University has led all NFL safeties with 17 interceptions since the 2017 season. League-wide, Byard has finished in the top 10 in interceptions in each of the last three seasons. His eight in 2017 tied him for first and was the highest total by any Oilers/Titans player since Richard Johnson picked off eight passes in 1990. Last season, Byard recorded his first career postseason interception in the Titans’ divisional victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Off the field, Byard’s performance has been just as impressive, especially this offseason.

Along with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who will also be a captain this season, Byard has been at the forefront of the team’s efforts to spark conversation and change in response to racism and social injustice, police brutality and other current events topics.

“It’s not easy. There is a price that you have to pay for leadership,” Booker said. “He’s willing to pay that price day in and day out. His teammates have seen that and respect that.”

Whenever a team can be player-led, Booker said, it can know that it has something special.

Byard, who signed a five-year contract extension in July 2019, will enter this season where he left off in 2019: one of the best safeties in the league and an exemplar for the rest of the roster.

“The example of him in the classroom, the meeting room, taking notes, asking questions, being engaged and then going out on the field and playing and practicing at a high level … it’s contagious,” Booker said. “If one of our captains can do that and anything we ask them to do, surely anyone else can do that. And if they’re not, they have to look at themselves and say, ‘Why am I not doing something that our captain is doing?’”