By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
Jordan Poyer was nervous, even a little scared. The Buffalo Bills safety was also confident that it wasn’t over, that he would be back.
Perhaps that’s why Poyer is having the best season of his career after nearly seeing it end.
On October 16, 2016 Poyer, then playing for the Cleveland Browns, took a violent and illegal blindside hit during a punt return in the first half of a loss to the Tennessee Titans.
“First, I thought the wind was knocked out of me,’’ Poyer said over a year later. “Then I got to the sideline and I’m throwing up blood. I went to the locker room and I was peeing blood.’’
Power left the stadium and was taken to a Nashville hospital where he would spend the next two nights with a lacerated kidney.
“I was nervous, sure,’’ Poyer said. “You get to the hospital and you hear the severity of the injury. The doctors told me if it was a half-inch higher or a half-inch lower it would have been life threatening, so it was almost . . .’’
Poyer’s career could have been over before it took off. Instead, after a long recovery, and a new deal with the Bills after testing free agency last March, he’s having the best season of his career.
In his fifth season out of Oregon State where he was originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, Poyer has become a fixture in head coach Sean McDermott’s new-look secondary.
Through the first 14 games of the season, Poyer was second on the team in tackles with a career-high 87. He was the only player in the league with over 85 tackles to go with two sacks and three interceptions. He also had 11 passes defensed, and a fumble recovery.
The Bills players voted him as their recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
“It was my contract year, so I wasn’t sure how it would play out,’’ Poyer said. “Fortunately, I was able to get picked up by Buffalo.’’
Bobby Babich, Buffalo’s assistant defensive backs coach, knew Poyer from their days together in Cleveland and put in a good word with McDermott, the first-year Bills head coach, and the team’s front office.
Poyer signed with the Bills, on March 9th, and there’s been no looking back.
“From the start of OTAs, Micah (Hyde, a free agent safety signed from Green Bay) and I took every snap with the ones,’’ Poyer said. “It was going to be how I performed. It was on me. I came to camp with the right mentality. I worked hard all offseason. I had to play catch up, had to get back to where I wanted to be to play at a high level. It was a lot of hard work, but it was all worth it.’’
McDermott’s defense, coordinated by Leslie Frazier, seems to fit Poyer’s skill set as a safety, who can play both deep or up in the box, depending on the call.
“It’s a lot different,’’ Poyer said of the defense he played in his first four years in Cleveland. “I really like this system, it’s based off vision, pattern reads. It’s more see ball, get ball, play within the scheme. Wherever the QB is looking, you move in that direction.’’
Poyer has gone in the right direction since he recovered from the devastating injury suffered that October day in Nashville.
“I always had confidence in myself,’’ he said. “I’ve always overcome everything that’s been thrown at me. Having good players around you who believe in you makes things easier too.
“It was kind of a blessing in disguise, because being out and on injured reserve allowed me to be there for the birth of my daughter (Aliyah). But it was very, very scary. I’m blessed to be able to be back and playing again.’’
That game in Nashville, those nights in the hospital, the long road back, all make it even more special.
“It all just happened so fast,’’ Poyer said “I’m in the hospital and doctors are telling me stuff and that I’m not going to be able to play again that year. I was pretty devastated when they told me that.’’
Power spent the final 10 weeks of the 2016 season on injured reserve and wasn’t cleared to even begin running until January 15th of 2017.
“I didn’t do anything from October to the middle of January,’’ he said. “I knew I had to catch up, but there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I would be back.’’