PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Bills safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have been essentially inseparable since arriving in Buffalo and signing their free agent contracts mere hours apart on March 10, 2017.
With a nod of the head, one has come to instinctually know where the other is going before the ball is snapped. Off the field, the two have formed such a tight bond they finish each other’s sentences whenever paired at the podium for a news conference.
So it was with little surprise following a recent training camp session when Hyde, followed separately by Poyer, reflected on the passing of time, how fortunate they are to have at least one more year together, and the urgency they feel to succeed after what each endured last season, and the uncertainty the experiences raised.
“I thought I was done,” Hyde said, referring to fearing his career being over after having season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk in October.
“So to be in this situation right now with my babies here, having my wife here, I can’t even put into words how amazing it is … because I love where I’m at in my life,” he added with his 3-year-old son on his lap, and a nod toward Poyer. “It’s a blessing to have him back also, because I know I play my best game when he’s healthy.”
Poyer’s return to Buffalo was uncertain for contractual reasons, and concerns the Bills lacked the salary cap space to re-sign him. Rather than start fresh elsewhere, Poyer chose the familiarity of Buffalo by signing a two-year deal.
“It’s just the way the universe works, man,” said Poyer, who called Hyde immediately after after agreeing to re-sign. “I’m just trying to take it all in, be present in these moments. I’m not worried about what’s going to happen this offseason or next year.
“This is my time. This is our time.”
Barring injury, Hyde and Poyer prepare to open their seventh season as Buffalo’s starting safety tandem. They represent the NFL’s longest active-serving starting safety duo, with the next closest being Arizona’s Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson, and Denver’s Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson, who respectively have been working together since 2019.
Few safety tandems have been together longer than Hyde and Poyer.
Since the NFL merger, Carnell Lake and Darren Perry served as the Steelers’ opening-day starters for seven straight seasons (1992-98). Meantime, Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark played together for eight straight seasons (2006-2013), though Clark missed the the 2012 opener in Denver because he couldn’t play at altitude.
In Buffalo, Hyde and Poyer are both 32. They’re entering their 11th NFL seasons, after being selected in the 2013 draft — Hyde went in the fifth round to Green Bay, and Poyer was a seventh-round selection by Philadelphia.
And though they spend their offseasons on separate coasts — Hyde in San Diego and Poyer in South Florida — they’ve spent their time in Buffalo watching their families grow, while serving as the backbone of the Bills’ secondary.
Their arrival in Buffalo coincided with the hiring of coach Sean McDermott, who had a major say in targeting both in free agency in his vision to rebuild a team that had gone 17 years without a playoff berth. Ever since, with Hyde and Poyer taking on a larger leadership role, the Bills have made the postseason in five of the past six seasons, and are three-time defending AFC East champions.
“I’ll forever be indebted to those guys,” McDermott said. “They’ve been big-time catalysts for what we’ve done and the success that we’ve experienced when we got this thing going in 2017.”
Backup safety Damar Hamlin was a fan of Hyde and Poyer long before the Bills drafted him in 2021.
“Seeing them work together, it’s like sheet music. It’s really like art. There’s so much chemistry there,” said Hamlin, who took over the starting job after Hyde was sidelined. “I learned so much about our defense, about the NFL, about football just watching them. So to be able to have them back and just see how they work and just shape my game off how they play … it’s everything to me.”
The Bills’ secondary has even more continuity when factoring in cornerback Tre’Davious White, a starter since his rookie season in 2017. Then there’s Taron Johnson, who was drafted in 2018, and took over the nickelback role in 2020.
As the team’s elder statesmen, Hyde and Poyer are focused on what few opportunities they might have left.
“The young guys probably think at times I’m psycho,” Hyde said of his desire to win.
Poyer is so focused on the present, he made a conscious decision to rid himself of the distractions — and negativity — of social media.
“Guys that I’ve been here with for seven years, I want to be the best version of myself for them,” said Poyer, who’s also refreshed after spending last season playing through numerous injuries, including a punctured lung which had him make the 17-hour drive for a game in Kansas City because he was not cleared to fly.
“This is what I do. This is why I love to do it. I’m playing football with my guys,” Poyer added. “That’s all it’s about.”
AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow contributed.