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Byrd Says He's Changed


Tight end Dominique Byrd, here working out for the Cardinals during USC's pro day, is hoping for a chance after sitting out the 2008 season.

With his first chance to show he is serious, Dominique Byrd showed up early.

The veteran tight end was at the Cardinals? facility for the first shift of Tuesday?s voluntary workouts, his initial shot at working under strength and conditioning coach John Lott since earning a one-year contract following his minicamp tryout. It might have not been something Byrd had done in his previous NFL incarnation, but he insists he is different now.

Byrd was a third-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2006, part of the star-studded USC team that produced Reggie Bush and his new Cardinals teammates Matt Leinart and Deuce Lutui. But Byrd fizzled as a pro, getting into trouble both with his team and off the field, until the Rams had enough.

Byrd was cut by the Rams last offseason, and sat out all of 2008. He is no longer the star tight end from the Trojans? powerhouse offense. Now he is one of many at the bottom of the Cardinals? roster hoping he can stick there by the time September arrives.


?It does make you appreciate it more, when the game you love is, I don?t want to say taken away from me because I made mistakes, but it was just a maturing period,? Byrd said after his workout. ?I really love the game.

?The hardest part was making sure I was working out every day. I have had to work and pray at keeping focused, knowing another opportunity would come up and I would need to be ready for it. That?s all I am trying to let the Cardinals know, let the rest of the league know, the mistakes I made were just that.?

The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder had just six receptions in his two seasons in St. Louis, which became much more memorable for his problems than his production.

?You have responsibilities as a draft pick and being a professional,? Byrd said. ?It was well-documented that I didn?t take care of that the way I should have.?

With the Rams, Byrd got in trouble for falling asleep in team meetings and once missed a team charter to a game. Off the field, Byrd was arrested for a DUI and also arrested after a bar fight. Those things are in his past, Byrd said (The Cardinals said Byrd has no pending discipline from the NFL from either off-field incident) after he realized he needed to grow up.

Now Byrd just wants to work out every day and hang around the facility ?being a good dude,? letting the coaches know how much he wants to make the team.

That?s certainly no given. He is the sixth tight end on the roster, joining Stephen Spach, Ben Patrick, Leonard Pope, Anthony Becht and Alex Shor. In some ways, he has more to prove than any of them.

It can be hard to mature in the NFL, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said, ?depending on where you are and the support group you have around you, because some places are more difficult than others. When I got in, I was pretty chill. I didn?t do much. Some guys, they like to go out and things happen, you know what I mean??

But Fitzgerald sees Byrd?s potential. The two have known each other for years, born just one year apart and both among the most prolific pass catchers in Minnesota high school history. Fitzgerald told Byrd he could stay at Fitzgerald?s house while he tried to make the team.

?It?s nice he has the opportunity,? Fitzgerald said.

That?s all Byrd is getting, and that?s all Byrd is expecting. He?d like to provide a different ending to his NFL story himself.

?The mistakes I made,? Byrd said, ?aren?t going to define me.?

Contact Darren Urban at Posted 5/5/09.

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