Micah Hyde returns to Lambeau Field as leader of Bills’ defense

September 28, 2018

GREEN BAY — Micah Hyde, predictably, took the high road.

For the ex-Green Bay Packers defensive back-turned-Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl safety, Sunday’s return to Lambeau Field is not about showing his former team what a colossal mistake it made in not re-signing him after the 2016 season. Or so Hyde insisted earlier this week, even as a couple of Wisconsin reporters teased him for holding back his true feelings and a couple of Western New York reporters good-naturedly called him out for his revisionist history.

“After the game, I don’t look at my stats and say, ‘This is what Green Bay missed out on,’ ” Hyde said in a phone interview. “It’s not like that. I know that it’s a business and I learned that last year. I have so many friends on the Packers that I talk to to this day, that were at my wedding over the summer. We talk all the time. I wish them nothing but the best. It was the organization that gave me my first opportunity in the NFL. They took a leap of faith when they drafted me. So, no, I don’t have any bad blood against them and I wish them the best.”

Hyde was always honest with the media during his four seasons with the Packers, even during the second half of the 2016 season, his final year in Green Bay. (He received the Tom Mulhern Stand-Up Guy award from the Green Bay chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America.) And since he still does have a number of friends still with the Packers, including wide receiver Randall Cobb and Davante Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers — all of whom wanted the team to re-sign him — it’s obvious he has no ill will toward them.

“I texted him at the end of (last) week and he asked me for two tickets. I guess we know where his mind is at,” Adams joked. “It’ll be good to go against Micah, good see him. Obviously, I haven’t gone against him before because we were on the same team. He’s my close friend. A lot of respect for him. Great guy – on and off the field.”

When free agency arrived in March 2017, Hyde never got an offer from the Packers and joined the Bills on a five-year, $30.5 million free agent deal. Late last year, he revealed something he had never publicly shared before that: That the Packers had told him with six weeks left in the 2016 season that they would not be re-signing him.

“It was eye-opening,” Hyde admitted to Syracuse’s The Post-Standard last December. “It was like somebody stabbed me in my back, because I still had to play for that team for the next whatever. But I played my best football I’ve ever played. Maybe when I get stabbed in my back it makes me play a little better.”

There’s certainly no debating how well Hyde played during his final games in Green Bay, as he was one of the defense’s few true playmakers down the stretch, intercepting four passes in the final seven games (including playoffs) and delivering pass breakups at key moments. His goal-line interception in the regular season-ending win in Detroit was a huge play, as was his interception against Dak Prescott in the third quarter of the playoff victory at Dallas that year.

And there’s no denying that he was terrific last season, when he was voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time after a career-high five interceptions. Since entering the league as a fifth-round pick from Iowa in 2013, Hyde is one of just five safeties in the NFL to register 12 or more interceptions and four or more sacks.

“He’s a great football player. I mean, he had a fantastic year last year. He was a great player for us,” Rodgers said this week. “He’s a heady guy, can do a ton of stuff. Look at the time he spent with us — he played corner for us and made big plays, he played safety and made big plays, returned punts. He’s the kind of guy you love having in the locker room. He’s a consummate professional. His approach is fantastic, the way he is in the locker room, his leadership abilities and he’s doing that in Buffalo. You hate to see a guy like that go.”

Bills coach Sean McDermott had been a Hyde fan for a long time — even before the Bills hired him last year as their coach and Hyde became his defensive leader — and while McDermott contemplated using Hyde in the same jack-of-all-trades capacity he’d been in with the Packers, the coach instead decided to play his strictly at safety.

“He certainly has that type of position flexibility that we’ve noticed,” McDermott said. “I had my eye on Micah for a number of years, just watching him on TV when we weren’t playing Green Bay. I had a lot of respect for his versatility. But anytime you can keep a guy at one position, particularly when the system is new, it helps from a learning standpoint.”

In a conference call with Bills beat writers Wednesday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy didn’t want to talk about losing Hyde — he called it the “business aspect” and said such questions “are really questions for last year” — but made it clear he’d love to still have him.

“I have ultimate respect for him as a man and as a football player,” McCarthy said. “He’s doing a heck of a job up there. I’m very proud of him.”

The Packers could use him. Safety Kentrell Brice has been involved in three huge touchdown passes by opponents the past two weeks, and each time, better ball skills and awareness — Hyde’s strengths — might’ve made a difference.

But Hyde can’t — or won’t — think about what might have been. He said he’s more interested in showing the Bills were right about him than showing the Packers they were wrong.

“I wouldn’t say (I was) hurt. It was the first time in my life that I’d gone through the whole free agency thing. I really didn’t know what to expect,” Hyde said. “It was frustrating, for sure, just because of the hard work and how much that you put in for four years — the winning, the losing, the relationships that you build with your teammates, your coaches, the community.

“I’m a guy that I like routine. Being in Green Bay became a routine. But when it was time for me to come here to Buffalo, it was eye-opening. I wouldn’t say I was hurt. It was just a change of scenery. I went along with it and figured God has a plan. And here we are today, and I love it here in Buffalo.

“Any time I play against a really good friend, especially when they’re on offense, it’s weird. You’ve got to go out there and tackle him and try to hit him as hard as you can. You want to see them do well but, at the same time, you don’t want to see that when you’re playing against them. It’s more weird than anything. I’m excited, man. It’s going to be fun. I know the crowd in Green Bay and how the fans really come to see their team play. I’m excited to be back on that field and see what we can do against a really good team.”

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