The only thing consistent through Damiere Byrd’s first five years in the NFL has been inconsistency. He started his career as a rookie free agent with the Carolina Panthers in 2015, but did not make any real impact while spending time on both the active roster and practice squad. When he finally started to carve out a regular role within the team’s offense in 2017 and 2018, the injury bug started to bite.
After ending both seasons on injured reserve — Byrd suffered two separate broken arms as well as a leg injury — the Panthers decided not to retain him, and instead opened the door for him to sign a one-year pact with the Arizona Cardinals last offseason. While Byrd had the most productive campaign of his career in Arizona, he still failed to become a fixture in the team’s aerial attack and was used mostly in a rotational manner.
After the season, he moved again and joined the New England Patriots on another one-year deal. The reasoning behind coming to New England was a simple one for the 27-year-old, as he pointed out during a media conference call on Wednesday, just a little more than half an hour removed from his first full-team practice as a Patriot.
“I just wanted to play good football,” Byrd said. “It’s notoriously known that here, we do everything that we can to play great football. And that’s what I wanted to do.”
The South Carolina product should get a decent chance to prove that he just that, even though New England’s recent track record of developing wide receiver talent is not rosy. Still, he will get plenty of opportunities to prove his value on a position depth chart that is wide open behind roster locks Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry — especially at the X-receiver position that Byrd is projected to play within the Patriots’ scheme.
In order to emerge victoriously and carve out a role on the 53-man roster, however, Byrd knows that he will first have to learn one of the most difficult offenses in football and build a chemistry with the team’s quarterbacks. He already started doing that during the offseason, when he participated in throwing sessions not just with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer but with one of his former teammates, ex-Panthers passer Cam Newton, as well.
“I have been trying to learn the offense as a whole. That is the best approach you can have when you’re learning something new, especially this offense. Just being able to work with [the quarterbacks] was a good opportunity to meet everybody, and learn and get chemistry,” said Byrd about his adaptation process since arriving in New England — one that includes building on his own personal foundation.
“Just getting experience, being in a good place at the right time. Just being able to have that opportunity to play and just take what I’ve learned from other people throughout my career and apply it to here, and soak up as much as I can from the people who have been in this program and this organization.”
His relationship with his teammates and the men throwing him the football in particular will be a key to helping him reach another goal of his: finally finding the consistency that had been lacking in his career over the last five years.
“I like to be a consistent player, somebody who can make big plays. And not only make big plays, but make the routine and consistent plays,” said Byrd, who has just 44 career receptions and 28 in-game appearances on his résumé so far. “Obviously, I’m a smaller guy, so I won’t do too many jump balls, but I’m a player that’ll do whatever he has to do for the team regardless.”
The 5-foot-9 receiver appears to be off to a good start in this regard. Not only was he an active participant in the throwing sessions organized by Stidham, Hower and Newton during the offseason, he also spent part of Wednesday’s practice with the return group. The quest for consistency, after all, extends beyond just the offensive side of the ball and could also lead to Byrd getting regular looks as a member of New England’s special teams units.
Only time will tell if he can do that, and get off the rollercoaster that was his career at times between 2015 and 2019.